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Chile Earthquake: First report from SOS Children

This report is directly from the SOS Children office in Santigo

An earthquake measuring 8.8 (we are told) on the Richter scale rocked the coast of Chile this morning at about 3:34 local time affecting from the First to the Tenth Region of the country (from Tarapacá to Chiloe). The epicentre was located in the Bio Bio region (whose capital is the city of Concepción). The official number of victims of the quake until this morning was 78.

Communication with the programs and among  SOS Children staff has been practically impossible, because mobile phone communication is not working and landline is available only in some areas. We have received reports from the villages in Santiago and Curicó only, where our own team had no fatalities and out infrastructure was largely intact. Luckily even in our village in Curicó, which is located very close to the epicentre, there were no damages.

We also know that the historical part of Santiago has been heavily damaged.  There are many areas without electricity. Public transport in the capital has been stopped, too. Nor the Metro or the Transantiago (urban buses) is in operation and there are very few taxis moving around the streets. In the rest of the country, the Ministry of Public Works announced the suspension of various roads due to the collapse of bridges and viaducts. The local authorities have recommended people on summer vacation not to move from where they are or go back to the capital, because road conditions should be first evaluated. The International Airport Arturo Merino Benitez is damaged and is closed for at least 48 hours.

In general, the population has remained calm, but many people went out from their houses when the earthquake hit in order to find refuge in the parks and squares, far from the tall buildings. The situation is still tense, while alarms of different types are heard permanently everywhere. Several industrial fires have been reported, too, but no public disorder has been identified. 

The National Office building had minor structural damage only: roofs and masonry. Not surprisingly a power surge took out the majority of the computers and other office items. I got to the office at 8:30 to evaluate the damages. Some of the office suffered minro structural damages too, to the extent that at the moment it is impossible to get in because of a blocked door.

I am trying hard to get in contact with the Bio Bio region and the SOS facilities around. And while I am writing this report another strong quake has hit Santiago.

Chile with well developed government structures and being a well developed country will not require as much external support as Haiti. Therefore it is very likely that the major contribution of SOS Children will be providing of safe areas for children, temporary care, reunification efforts and to a smaller extent long term placement.

Victor Beltrán

National Director

SOS Children Chile