Since Friday, Maria A. Rivas and her daughter, Judith, have spent hours trying to telephone relatives in El Salvador.
"We haven't been able to reach anyone yet," Maria Rivas said Monday. "We still don't know anything."
At least 20 times an hour, they dial the phone but each time they only get a short message from an international operator advising them that the lines are dead.
Rivas' mother, grandmother, brother and numerous other relatives live in Apopa, a city about 10 miles from San Salvador, and have been cut off from communication since the earthquake struck Friday in El Salvador.
"We only get a telephone operator saying that due to the damage in El Salvador, it's impossible to get through," her daughter, Judith, said.
Like other Salvadorans in Orange County, they have become a small link in a large chain, telephoning others from their homeland to sympathize and to share thoughts and any new information.
On Monday, they found solace in their efforts to collect donated clothing, food and blankets to help the earthquake's survivors. The Rivases' Santa Ana home is being used as a temporary warehouse for donated goods.
Over the weekend, the Rivases joined with Salvadorans and other Latinos at Santa Ana's Centennial Park in a public plea for donations under the name Comite Hermandad de Salvador (Salvadoran Brotherhood Committee).
"We're asking Mexicans, Cubans, everyone to help us," Maria Rivas said.
To help quake victims, the committee established an Orange County donation center at Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, 541 E. Central Ave., Santa Ana. The public can leave clothing, food and blankets between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
Donations will be taken to Los Angeles, and then transported to El Salvador, committee members said.
Information from families that have been able to telephone from El Salvador is grim.
The damage was mostly centered in San Salvador and the surrounding communities of San Jacinto, Soyapango and La Colonia Trinidad, where many homes in a new housing tract reportedly had collapsed.
Doctor Being Sent
Concern, a Santa Ana-based humanitarian organization for hunger relief and development, said a medical doctor will leave Los Angeles International Airport on Monday night for El Salvador with a shipment of medical supplies.
Denis Garvey, a Concern spokesman, said the supplies, including antibiotics and anesthetics donated by St. Joseph and St. Jude hospitals, were included in relief efforts through California Medical Aid to El Salvador.
California Medical Aid to El Salvador has a four-person team, including two nutritionists, a nurse and a doctor, stationed in San Salvador and they have sent word that they escaped harm.
To help relatives in Orange County receive information, Miniondas, a Spanish-language newspaper based in Santa Ana, intends to print a list of names of about 500 relatives in the San Salvador area in today's edition, publisher Sergio Velasquez said.
Velasquez, whose newspaper played a major role in last year's relief efforts for victims of the Mexico City earthquake, said "it's our way of helping our Salvadoran community members."
If families in the United States have been unable to receive information, the Red Cross will begin a formal inquiry on their behalf through the Salvadoran Red Cross, said Sylvia Danton, a Red Cross spokeswoman. Because rescue efforts are under way, it would take at last a few days to receive any word, she said.
The Red Cross was discouraging donated clothing, food and medicine. Instead, checks earmarked for El Salvadoran earthquake relief can be mailed to 601 N. Golden Circle, Santa Ana. Danton said the money will buy food and medicine in El Salvador.
In Los Angeles, Roman Catholic Archbishop Roger Mahony sent a check for $100,000 to the archbishop of San Salvador to help survivors.
In Orange County, the Catholic Diocese was notifying its people that if they care to contribute they can send contributions to Catholic Relief Services, earmarked for El Salvador, Msgr. Michael Driscoll said.