Chile: A first look

By Heidi Isaza in Chile

Close to the epicenter, the damage is severe. (Paula Saez/WV)

It’s been a two-day trek, but I finally made it to Chile late last night.

It was dark when we flew in, so it was hard to assess the effects of the earthquake. The few people I was able to talk to said there were some areas that had been greatly affected. They also noted that much of Santiago looks OK on the outside but many buildings suffered a lot of structural damage that can’t be seen.

While the effects might not be outwardly visible in some parts Santiago, the people here carry the psychological affects within them. One man said he was in bed when everything started shaking: “You wouldn’t believe how strong it was. We tried to go down the stairs, but everyone was falling because of the movements.”

Some areas were hard hit, even in Santiago. When World Vision emergency-response teams visited sponsorship projects in the city, they found that many of the homes of sponsored children had been severely damaged and many families were sleeping outside for fear that what was left—if there was anything after the first earthquake—would come tumbling down on them during aftershocks. And many children are understandably afraid of enclosed spaces.

The town of Dichato, near Concepcion, was hit hard by the earthquake and resulting tsunami. (Paula Saez/WV)

However, the horror that people in Santiago lived through can’t compare with what people near the epicenter at Concepcíon have gone through and continue to face. Some whole towns were washed away with the tsunami waves after the earthquake. Paula Saez, one of World Vision’s first responders to the area, said she has never seen anything like it. “The earthquake damaged some things, but the sea took everything away. You can see chairs, tables, and even a house floating at sea,” she said.

World Vision began responding immediately, distributing blankets and water containers to those affected in and around Santiago, and staff are working to get much-needed supplies to the survivors in the south. But much help is still needed.

Related: Back to Chile (March 1, 2010)

Go to www.worldvision.org for crisis updates and ways to donate.

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Filed under Chile earthquake, On Assignment

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