Christian Relief Poised for Quake-Hit Peru

One of the world's largest Christian relief and development organization said Thursday it was ready to respond to the magnitude-8.0 quake that struck central Peru Wednesday night.

World Vision reported that its staff and sponsored children in Peru are safe and the international agency is prepared to aid the victims of the quake.

"We have been in contact with our staff and the children in World Vision programs and all are reported safe," said Caleb Meza, World Vision's National Director for Peru, in a statement. "World Vision is prepared to provide relief supplies if the government requests aid."

The Christian organization is working with the Peruvian government to assess needs and has provided trucks loaded and ready to deliver clothes and other materials to keep homeless victims warm.

"The greatest needs right now are for blankets and warm clothing," said Yadira Pacheco, WV's communication manager in Peru. "It is winter season here."

At least 450 people have been killed by the magnitude-8.0 quake which had at least 15 aftershocks, some measuring up to 6.3 on the Richter scale, according to The Associated Press. More than 1,500 people were reported injured and the Red Cross said the toll is expected to rise.

"Hospitals are at capacity. It is important that people get medical supplies," Pacheco added.

Among the deaths were at least 200 people who were buried in the rubble of a church where they were attending a service.

In the city of Ica in Peru's southern desert, several Ica churches were also damaged, including the historic Senor de Luren church, according to AP.

Pope Benedict XVI offered prayers Thursday for the victims and called for immediate assistance for the injured and homeless.

"[The Pope] encourages institutions and people of goodwill to offer the necessary help to those harmed, with a spirit of Christian solidarity and charity," the Vatican said in a telegram, signed by Vatican Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone, according to Reuters.

World Vision has worked in Peru since 1965 and opened a national office in Lima in 1985. It now operates more than two dozen development programs in the country and helps sponsor more than 20,000 children in Peru through U.S. donors.