Monday, November 1, 2010

Chile quake victims to gov’t: Don’t forget about us

Last month’s rescue of 33 Chileans served as a compelling human-interest story, a global media ratings bonanza, and an amazing feat of technology. In the weeks since the rescue at the San Jose Mine, the freed workers have become a cause célèbre both in their native land as well as abroad.

Despite Sebastián Piñera's promise that he would be Chile’s "reconstruction president", some survivors of last February’s major earthquake have accused the government of ignoring them. A recent poll found that 70% of respondents in the tremor-hit Maule and Bio-Bio regions areas believed that government help has been to slow. 84% of those polled also believed that the rebuilding process has been “too slow”; while over 62% claimed that Piñera has been “inefficient”.

According to the AP, the local media has cited problems that have persisted since the earthquake struck over eight months ago and killed at least 521 people. Obtaining potable water has been a challenge for those residing in makeshift survivor camps while plenty of debris from fallen homes and buildings has not been removed.

In a speech last week, Piñera claimed that the reconstruction has been “the fastest, most efficient, and most profound in the history of this country.” He also said that he “has not forgotten the victims” and pledged that at least half of the reconstruction efforts will be completed by the one-year anniversary of the tremors.

But as reported by The Telegraph, some Chileans who lived through the 8.8-magnitude earthquake are disappointed with the attention the freed workers in Copiapo have received:
"We've been forgotten," said Cecilia Vallejos, 40, the president of the residents' committee at the (El Morro) camp.

"Watching all the attention given to the miners just emphasized that. Of course we, like all Chileans, were so pleased when they came out. But their hell is over after two months. We are still living ours"…

"We are grateful that we survived the earthquake but how long will we have to live like this?" (Maria Vasquez) asked. "The government did everything and more to rescue the miners when the world was looking but no one has come to see us. “
Thousands of minor aftershocks have occurred since February, while no immediate damages or fatalities were reported as a result of a 5.3-magnitude tremor over the weekend. If another major earthquake were to hit Chile in the near future, however, the results could be catastrophic. According to the U.N. officials, Chile lacks proper “inter-institutional and multidisciplinary” coordination between in case another disaster occurs.

Image- Christian Science Monitor (“A resident retrieves some belongings from a building…in Talca, after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile (in February). Enrique Marcarian/Reuters”)
Online Sources-, The Latin Americanist, MSNBC, El Universal, El Mercurio de Antofagasta, The Telegraph

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