The 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile - one of the most powerful recorded – has killed more than 700 people, but the figure is expected to increase. Troops are being deployed to help with rescue efforts and prevent looting. A curfew is enforced in some areas. Basic supplies are to be distributed as rescuers reach worst-hit areas.
The government has started its emergency operations to deal with the destruction caused by the massive earthquake. Juan Salazar of ACT member FASIC, is a member of the government’s National Emergency Committee. He says damage is worse than reported. “The information that arises each time indicates that the effects are much greater than originally assessed,” Salazar says. He has met Chilean president Michelle Bachelet for discussion on the emergency response.
“The city is in chaos”
Worst hit is Concepcion. The president of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Chile (IELCH), Rev. Gloria Rojas, reports that the situation in the city is chaotic, with much destruction. Some affected families are housed in church buildings and have lost everything. Many people are staying on the streets because their houses are partially destroyed or who fear new aftershocks.
It is starting to rain in the region, increasing fears the situation may worsen. No fuel is available, which makes movement difficult, and water is scarce. Communities are using bottled water. They are sharing food with the nearest neighbors. The Lutheran Church is ready to assess the affected areas together with other organizations.
ACT Alliance General Secretary John Nduna says many ACT members are ready to support the work CWS is doing in Chile, and some are already in place. “Our members will try to supplement the effort of the government, especially in communities where our local partners have been operating for years.”
Church World Service works with two Chilean agencies, FASIC (Fundacion de Ayuda Social de las Iglesias Cristianas) and IMECH, the Methodist Church of Chile. As part of the international ACT Alliance network, CWS will provide emergency assistance such as food, water and shelter.
1.5 million homes destroyed
President Bachelet said two million people had been affected by the earthquake. It is feared the damage may cost tens of billions of dollars.
Restoring public service
Jose Abumohor, of Chile's national emergency centre, said efforts were already under way to restore public services. "The aim is as soon as possible that we manage to reach a state of normality," he said. Foreign Minister Mariano Fernandez said Chile did not want aid offers to be "a distraction", adding: "Any aid that arrives without having been determined to be needed really helps very little."