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Ecuador quake kills 413 as Derry family struggle to come to terms with Sister Clare's death in disaster

By Donna Deeney

Published 19/04/2016

Sister Clare Theresa Crockett
Sister Clare Theresa Crockett
Sister Clare Theresa Crockett.
Sister Clare Theresa Crockett was based at a school in Playa Prieta with the Home of the Mother order.
The school where nun worked
Sister Clare Crockett at the school in Playa Prieta
Sister Clare Crockett with one of the pupils
Rescuers dig in the ruins after the earthquake

Search and rescue teams are racing to find survivors buried under collapsed buildings in Ecuador as one Londonderry family struggle to come to terms with the death of Sister Clare Theresa Crockett killed in the earthquake.

Authorities have said 413 people have been killed in the disaster after it struck at the weekend. Over 2,500 have been injured in what Ecuador President Rafael Correa described as the biggest tragedy to hit the country in the past seven decades.

Many areas have been reduced to mere rubble and almost 15,000 emergency workers have been working tirelessly to find survivors.

Sister Clare was the last to be dug out of the rubble after a stairwell collapsed in the school where she taught in Playa Prieta in Ecuador.

She was killed in the powerful 7.8 magnitude quake which hit the north western region of the South American country on Saturday.

From the Brandywell area of Derry, Sister Clare was a nun with the Servant Sisters of the Home of the Mother and taught 400 children in the Colegio Sagrada Familia school, including how to play the guitar.

The 33-year-old was with six Ecuadorian postulants, in the early stages of joining the order, when the disaster struck.

Five other members of her Order were also killed.

"She was a superstar. Everybody loved her," her cousin Emmet Doyle said.

"She was the last sister found. She was trying to get them down the stairs and the staircase collapsed. We knew she was trapped but information has been slow to come out.

Peruvian rescuers take part in the search for survivors in Manta, in the Ecuadorean coastal province of Manabi, on April 18, 2016 two days after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country. AFP/Getty Images
Peruvian rescuers take part in the search for survivors in Manta, in the Ecuadorean coastal province of Manabi, on April 18, 2016 two days after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country. AFP/Getty Images
Peruvian rescuers pause their search for survivors during a tremor in Manta, in the Ecuadorean coastal province of Manabi, on April 18, 2016 two days after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country. Rescuers and desperate families clawed through the rubble Monday to pull out survivors of an earthquake that killed 350 people and destroyed towns in a tourist area of Ecuador. / AFP PHOTO / LUIS ACOSTALUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images
A soldier patrols the streets of Manta, in the Ecuadorean coastal province of Manabi, on April 18, 2016 two days after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country. Rescuers and desperate families clawed through the rubble Monday to pull out survivors of an earthquake that killed 350 people and destroyed towns in a tourist area of Ecuador. / AFP PHOTO / LUIS ACOSTALUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images
A woman cries as she waits for news of her loved ones in Manta, in the Ecuadorean coastal province of Manabi, on April 18, 2016 two days after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country. Rescuers and desperate families clawed through the rubble Monday to pull out survivors of an earthquake that killed 350 people and destroyed towns in a tourist area of Ecuador. / AFP PHOTO / LUIS ACOSTALUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images
Peruvian rescuers search for survivors in Manta, in the Ecuadorean coastal province of Manabi, on April 18, 2016 two days after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country. Rescuers and desperate families clawed through the rubble Monday to pull out survivors of an earthquake that killed 350 people and destroyed towns in a tourist area of Ecuador. / AFP PHOTO / LUIS ACOSTALUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images
Peruvian rescuers pray as they search for survivors in Manta, in the Ecuadorean coastal province of Manabi, on April 18, 2016 two days after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country. Rescuers and desperate families clawed through the rubble Monday to pull out survivors of an earthquake that killed 350 people and destroyed towns in a tourist area of Ecuador. / AFP PHOTO / LUIS ACOSTALUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images
View of a house destroyed in Jama, in the Ecuadorean coastal province of Manabi, on April 18, 2016 two days after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country, on April 18, 2016. Rescuers and desperate families clawed through the rubble Monday to pull out survivors of an earthquake that killed 350 people and destroyed towns in a tourist area of Ecuador. / AFP PHOTO / Juan CevallosJUAN CEVALLOS/AFP/Getty Images
People wait for news of their loved ones in Manta, in the Ecuadorean coastal province of Manabi, on April 18, 2016 two days after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country. Rescuers and desperate families clawed through the rubble Monday to pull out survivors of an earthquake that killed 350 people and destroyed towns in a tourist area of Ecuador. / AFP PHOTO / LUIS ACOSTALUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images
Rescuers and residents search for victims in Jama, in the Ecuadorean coastal province of Manabi, on April 18, 2016 two days after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country, on April 18, 2016. Rescuers and desperate families clawed through the rubble Monday to pull out survivors of an earthquake that killed 350 people and destroyed towns in a tourist area of Ecuador. / AFP PHOTO / Juan CevallosJUAN CEVALLOS/AFP/Getty Images
Peruvian rescuers work after a 7.8-magnitude quake at the Tarqui Neigborhood in Manta, Ecuador on April 18, 2016. Rescuers and desperate families clawed through the rubble Monday to pull out survivors of an earthquake that killed 350 people and destroyed towns in a tourist area of Ecuador. / AFP PHOTO / LUIS ACOSTALUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images
Rescuers and residents search for victims in Jama, in the Ecuadorean coastal province of Manabi, on April 18, 2016 two days after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country, on April 18, 2016. Rescuers and desperate families clawed through the rubble Monday to pull out survivors of an earthquake that killed 350 people and destroyed towns in a tourist area of Ecuador. / AFP PHOTO / Juan CevallosJUAN CEVALLOS/AFP/Getty Images
Residents receive supplies in Jama, in the Ecuadorean coastal province of Manabi, on April 18, 2016 two days after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country, on April 18, 2016. Rescuers and desperate families clawed through the rubble Monday to pull out survivors of an earthquake that killed 350 people and destroyed towns in a tourist area of Ecuador. / AFP PHOTO / Juan CevallosJUAN CEVALLOS/AFP/Getty Images
Soldiers distributed supplies in Jama, in the Ecuadorean coastal province of Manabi, on April 18, 2016 two days after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country, on April 18, 2016. Rescuers and desperate families clawed through the rubble Monday to pull out survivors of an earthquake that killed 350 people and destroyed towns in a tourist area of Ecuador. / AFP PHOTO / Juan CevallosJUAN CEVALLOS/AFP/Getty Images
Soldiers distributed supplies in Jama, in the Ecuadorean coastal province of Manabi, on April 18, 2016 two days after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country, on April 18, 2016. Rescuers and desperate families clawed through the rubble Monday to pull out survivors of an earthquake that killed 350 people and destroyed towns in a tourist area of Ecuador. / AFP PHOTO / Juan CevallosJUAN CEVALLOS/AFP/Getty Images
Rescuers and residents search for victims in Jama, in the Ecuadorean coastal province of Manabi, on April 18, 2016 two days after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country, on April 18, 2016. Rescuers and desperate families clawed through the rubble Monday to pull out survivors of an earthquake that killed 350 people and destroyed towns in a tourist area of Ecuador. / AFP PHOTO / Juan CevallosJUAN CEVALLOS/AFP/Getty Images
Peruvian rescuers reast during the search for survivors in Manta, in the Ecuadorean coastal province of Manabi, on April 18, 2016 two days after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country. Rescuers and desperate families clawed through the rubble Monday to pull out survivors of an earthquake that killed 350 people and destroyed towns in a tourist area of Ecuador. / AFP PHOTO / LUIS ACOSTALUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images
A man carries a sack of fruit onto a truck in Jama, in the Ecuadorean coastal province of Manabi, on April 18, 2016 two days after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country, on April 18, 2016. Rescuers and desperate families clawed through the rubble Monday to pull out survivors of an earthquake that killed 350 people and destroyed towns in a tourist area of Ecuador. / AFP PHOTO / Juan CevallosJUAN CEVALLOS/AFP/Getty Images
Residents evacuate their belongings in Jama, in the Ecuadorean coastal province of Manabi, on April 18, 2016 two days after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country, on April 18, 2016. Rescuers and desperate families clawed through the rubble Monday to pull out survivors of an earthquake that killed 350 people and destroyed towns in a tourist area of Ecuador. / AFP PHOTO / Juan CevallosJUAN CEVALLOS/AFP/Getty Images
Rescuers and residents search for victims in Jama, in the Ecuadorean coastal province of Manabi, on April 18, 2016 two days after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country, on April 18, 2016. Rescuers and desperate families clawed through the rubble Monday to pull out survivors of an earthquake that killed 350 people and destroyed towns in a tourist area of Ecuador. / AFP PHOTO / Juan CevallosJUAN CEVALLOS/AFP/Getty Images
A man removes rubble in Jama, in the Ecuadorean coastal province of Manabi, on April 18, 2016 two days after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country, on April 18, 2016. Rescuers and desperate families clawed through the rubble Monday to pull out survivors of an earthquake that killed 350 people and destroyed towns in a tourist area of Ecuador. / AFP PHOTO / Juan CevallosJUAN CEVALLOS/AFP/Getty Images
A Honduran military police officer carries donations to be sent to the quake victims in Ecuador, in Tegucigalpa on April 18, 2016. Honduras will send a group of specialists to Ecuador Monday to help in the rescue works. Rescuers and desperate families clawed through the rubble Monday to pull out survivors of an earthquake that killed 350 people and destroyed towns in a tourist area of Ecuador. / AFP PHOTO / ORLANDO SIERRAORLANDO SIERRA/AFP/Getty Images
Destroyed houses are brought down for precaution in Jama, in the Ecuadorean coastal province of Manabi, on April 18, 2016 two days after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country, on April 18, 2016. Rescuers and desperate families clawed through the rubble Monday to pull out survivors of an earthquake that killed 350 people and destroyed towns in a tourist area of Ecuador. / AFP PHOTO / Juan CevallosJUAN CEVALLOS/AFP/Getty Images
A mannequin lies amid the rubble caused by a 7.8-magnitude earthquake, in La Chorrera, Ecuador, Monday, April 18, 2016. The Saturday night quake left a trail of ruin along Ecuadors normally placid Pacific Ocean coast. At least 350 people died and thousands are homeless. President Rafael Correa said early Monday that the death toll would surely rise, and in a considerable way. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
A member of Ecuador's Special Operations Group searches for survivors in one of Ecuador's worst-hit towns, Pedernales, two day after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country, on April 19, 2016. Rescuers and desperate families clawed through the rubble Monday to pull out survivors of an earthquake that killed 350 people and destroyed towns in a tourist area of Ecuador. / AFP PHOTO / RODRIGO BUENDIARODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images
Firefighters remove a body recovered from a destroyed building felled by the 7.8-magnitude earthquake, in Portoviejo, Ecuador, Monday, April 18, 2016. The Saturday night quake left a trail of ruin along Ecuadors normally placid Pacific Ocean coast. At least 350 people died and thousands are homeless. President Rafael Correa said early Monday that the death toll would surely rise, and in a considerable way. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd
Soldiers search for survivors in one of Ecuador's worst-hit towns, Pedernales, two day after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country, on April 19, 2016. Rescuers and desperate families clawed through the rubble Monday to pull out survivors of an earthquake that killed 350 people and destroyed towns in a tourist area of Ecuador. / AFP PHOTO / RODRIGO BUENDIARODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images
A man, his home destroyed by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake, sleeps in his uncle's boat docked along the shore, in La Chorrera, Ecuador, Monday, April 18, 2016. The Saturday night quake left a trail of ruin along Ecuadors normally placid Pacific Ocean coast. At least 350 people died and thousands are homeless. President Rafael Correa said early Monday that the death toll would surely rise, and in a considerable way. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
A man, whose wife and unborn son were killed during a 7.8-magnitude earthquake, recovers belongings from his collapsed home, in La Chorrera, Ecuador, Monday, April 18, 2016. The Saturday night quake left a trail of ruin along Ecuador's normally placid Pacific Ocean coast. At least 350 people died and thousands are homeless. President Rafael Correa said early Monday that the death toll would "surely rise, and in a considerable way." (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
TOPSHOT - Picture taken in Pedernales, Ecuador, on April 17, 2016 a day after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country. Rescuers in Ecuador raced to dig out victims trapped under the rubble of homes and hotels on Sunday after a powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake killed at least 235. / AFP PHOTO / RODRIGO BUENDIARODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images
TOPSHOT - The sun sets in one of Ecuador's worst-hit towns, Pedernales, a day after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country, on April 17, 2016. The toll from the big earthquake in Ecuador rose on Sunday to 246 dead and 2,527 people injured, the country's vice president said. / AFP PHOTO / RODRIGO BUENDIARODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images
A man and his son rest at the shelter in Manta, Ecuador, on April 17, 2016 a day after a powerful 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country. The toll from the big earthquake in Ecuador rose on Sunday to 246 dead and 2,527 people injured, the country's vice president said. / AFP PHOTO / LUIS ACOSTALUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images
Residents sleep under a makeshift tent outside the emergency center in the town of Portoviejo, Ecuador, Sunday, April 17, 2016. Parts of Ecuador have been devastated by the country's strongest earthquake in decades, as the death toll continues to rise and people left homeless prepare to sleep outside for second straight night. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)
Picture taken in Manta, Ecuador, on April 17, 2016 a day after a powerful 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country. The toll from the big earthquake in Ecuador rose on Sunday to 246 dead and 2,527 people injured, the country's vice president said. / AFP PHOTO / LUIS ACOSTALUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images
Picture showing the destruction in Manta, Ecuador, on April 17, 2016 a day after a powerful 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country. The toll from the big earthquake in Ecuador rose on Sunday to 246 dead and 2,527 people injured, the country's vice president said. / AFP PHOTO / LUIS ACOSTALUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images
A vehicle rolls on a cracked route after a 7.8-magnitude quake in Chone, Ecuador on April 17, 2016. At least 246 people were killed when a powerful earthquake struck Ecuador, destroying buildings and a bridge and sending terrified residents scrambling from their homes, authorities said Sunday. / AFP PHOTO / JUAN CEVALLOSJUAN CEVALLOS/AFP/Getty Images
Ecuadorean Veronica Paladines, removes rubble in search for her husband at Tarqui neigbourhood in Manta, Ecuador on April 17, 2016 a fay after a powerful quake hit the country. The toll from the big earthquake in Ecuador rose on Sunday to 246 dead and 2,527 people injured, the country's vice president said. / AFP PHOTO/AFP/Getty Images
A rescuer works in one of Ecuador's worst-hit towns, Pedernales, a day after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country, on April 17, 2016. Rescuers in Ecuador raced to dig out victims trapped under the rubble of homes and hotels on Sunday after a powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake killed at least 246. / AFP PHOTO / RODRIGO BUENDIARODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images
The sun sets in one of Ecuador's worst-hit towns, Pedernales, a day after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country, on April 17, 2016. The toll from the big earthquake in Ecuador rose on Sunday to 246 dead and 2,527 people injured, the country's vice president said. / AFP PHOTO / RODRIGO BUENDIARODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images
A girl waits in Pedernales, Ecuador, on April 17, 2016 a day after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country. Rescuers in Ecuador raced to dig out victims trapped under the rubble of homes and hotels on Sunday after a powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake killed at least 246. / AFP PHOTO / RODRIGO BUENDIARODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images
Rescue workers search the rubble after a 7.8-magnitude quake in Gauyaquil, Ecuador on April 17, 2016. At least 235 people were killed when a powerful earthquake struck Ecuador, destroying buildings and a bridge and sending terrified residents scrambling from their homes, authorities said Sunday. / AFP PHOTO / LUIS ACOSTALUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images
A rescue worker searches the rubble after a 7.8-magnitude quake in Gauyaquil, Ecuador on April 17, 2016. At least 235 people were killed when a powerful earthquake struck Ecuador, destroying buildings and a bridge and sending terrified residents scrambling from their homes, authorities said Sunday. / AFP PHOTO / LUIS ACOSTALUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images
Picture taken in one of Ecuador's worst-hit towns, Pedernales, a day after a 7.8-magnitude quake hit the country, on April 17, 2016. Rescuers in Ecuador raced to dig out victims trapped under the rubble of homes and hotels on Sunday after a powerful 7.8-magnitude earthquake killed at least 246. / AFP PHOTO / RODRIGO BUENDIARODRIGO BUENDIA/AFP/Getty Images
Buildings barely left standing after a 7.8-magnitude quake in Portoviejo, Ecuador on April 17, 2016. At least 235 people were killed when a powerful earthquake struck Ecuador, destroying buildings and a bridge and sending terrified residents scrambling from their homes, authorities said Sunday. / AFP PHOTO / JUAN CEVALLOSJUAN CEVALLOS/AFP/Getty Images
Aeril view taken by a drone after a 7.8-magnitude quake in Portoviejo, Ecuador on April 17, 2016. At least 235 people were killed when a powerful earthquake struck Ecuador, destroying buildings and a bridge and sending terrified residents scrambling from their homes, authorities said Sunday. / AFP PHOTO/AFP/Getty Images
Aeril view taken by a drone after a 7.8-magnitude quake in Portoviejo, Ecuador on April 17, 2016. At least 235 people were killed when a powerful earthquake struck Ecuador, destroying buildings and a bridge and sending terrified residents scrambling from their homes, authorities said Sunday. / AFP PHOTO / Pablo COZZAGLIOPABLO COZZAGLIO/AFP/Getty Images
Rescue workers search the rubble after a 7.8-magnitude quake in Guayaquil, Ecuador on April 17, 2016. At least 235 people were killed when a powerful earthquake struck Ecuador, destroying buildings and a bridge and sending terrified residents scrambling from their homes, authorities said Sunday. / AFP PHOTO / LUIS ACOSTALUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty Images
People watch a collapsed house in Guayaquil on April 17, 2016. At least 41 people have been killed by the powerful earthquake that struck western Ecuador on Saturday and the toll will likely rise further, the country's Vice President Jorge Glas said. / AFP PHOTO / JOSE SANCHEZ LJOSE SANCHEZ L/AFP/Getty Images
View of a fallen building after a 7.8-magnitude quake in Portoviejo, Ecuador on April 17, 2016. At least 77 people were killed when a powerful earthquake struck Ecuador, destroying buildings and a bridge and sending terrified residents scrambling from their homes, authorities said Sunday. / AFP PHOTO / JUAN CEVALLOSJUAN CEVALLOS/AFP/Getty Images
People walk along a street after a 7.8-magnitude quake in Portoviejo, Ecuador on April 17, 2016. At least 77 people were killed when a powerful earthquake struck Ecuador, destroying buildings and a bridge and sending terrified residents scrambling from their homes, authorities said Sunday. / AFP PHOTO / JUAN CEVALLOSJUAN CEVALLOS/AFP/Getty Images

"She died as she lived, helping others."

The Home of the Mother order confirmed the death of Sr Clare on their website and asked for prayers.

In a statement the order said: "The bodies of the missing Sister and girls have been found amongst the rubble.

"We ask for prayers for their souls, so that they may soon be in God's presence, seeing Him face to face.

"We also ask for prayers for their families, so that the Lord may bring a greater good of their suffering."

While her family living in the Long Tower area try to come to terms with the devastating news, tributes have been paid by those who knew her and those who offered deep condolences.

One of her relatives said the whole family are struggling with the enormity of their loss.

He said: "Clare died doing what she lived her life doing and that was helping people.

"She has been a missionary for the past 15 years and has travelled all over working with the poor and the needy. We are all immensely proud of her and when we heard she was among the dead in Ecuador it sent a deep shock throughout the whole family that we are trying to come to terms with."

Sr Clare joined the Home of the Mother order when she was just 18 years of age - a move that surprised even those who knew her well. Among them is Fr Roland Colhoun, a friend and spiritual director of the youth group Sr Clare belonged to when she was a student at St Cecilia's school. Fr Colhoun comforted the family when the dreadful news came that the young vibrant girl so loved by every one was among the 270 victims killed.

Fr Colhoun said: "Clare was a dynamic, tenacious young woman and her family are understandably feeling great pain right now.

"The news of her death has affected me deeply, I was speaking about her during morning Mass and found myself struggling to talk but Clare was doing God's work right up until her last second on this earth, she was helping the poor and the needy.

"Looking back I was surprised when she said she was going to be a nun because that is a very unusual thing for a young person to do these days.

"I shouldn't really have been surprised because Clare was full of joy and courage and Our Lord and his Blessed Mother chose her for their work and she was doing that with her usual tenacity." Foyle MP Mark Durkan, who has close associations to the family, offered his sympathy.

He said: "While no words can console Sr Clare's family on the loss of such a special person, I hope that everyone's sympathy and support will bring them some comfort at this very sad time."

His sentiment was shared by the Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness who added: "Sr Clare devoted her life to children and young people and died selflessly helping those in need in Ecuador.

"Her death has shocked and saddened the entire community in Derry and further afield."

Speaking on behalf of the entire city of Derry, Mayor Elisha McCallion said: "The sympathies of the people of the Derry City and Strabane District Council go out to her family and friends, and indeed the wider Church community."

The Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charles Flanagan added: "On behalf of the Government and people of Ireland I also want to extend our sincere condolences to the people of Ecuador on the tragic and heavy loss of life from Saturday's devastating earthquake."

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