15 April 2014, 17:53

Chile: Government deploys massive relief operation after recent tragedies

Valparaiso prior to the fire.

Valparaiso prior to the fire.

Valparaiso prior to the fire.

By Tawab Malekzad

WASHINGTON (VR) – Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said April 15 that her government appointed three delegates to deal with the recent disasters that hit the South American nation. The announcement came as her administration stated that at least 3,500 houses have been destroyed and as many as 11,000 people have been displaced by the blaze roaring in the Valparaiso hills.

Bachelet said that one delegate will deal with the current fire emergency in Valparaiso, a coastal city 64 miles (102 kilometers) west from the capital city of Santiago, and the other two with the  northern cities of Arica and Iquique, which were hit by earthquake earlier this month.

“We need to think [about] what else can we bring to Chile to end this fire once and for all,” Bachelet told Chile’s Radio Cooperativa this morning. “We need to think also what we can do in our own country and how much should we request from our friends overseas. We need support in the reconstruction not only of the houses, but of people’s lives.”

Since the Austral winter is around the corner, the reconstruction of Valparaiso and containing the fire remains Bachelet’s first priority. She assured the residents of Valparaiso that they “will return to their normal lives as late as Monday, and the schools will re-open on Monday for students.”

The inferno started in the hilltops surrounding the coastal city of Valparaiso on Saturday April 12th. Since then, the fire has continued to leap to populated areas of the city. According to the Chilean media, as many as 14 have been killed so far.

“The situation is pretty hectic [in Valparaiso],” Chilean-American journalist Gibran Haq, who is currently in the South American nation, told Radio VR. “The city is covered by hills, so that’s what makes it so hard to contain the fire. We were hoping for it to stop last night, but it didn’t.”

The damage has been severe, Haq said, destroying much of the city’s architectural heritage. “The rebuilding of the city will be taking approximately five years,” Haq added.

In the meantime, Chileans are bracing for what it seems to be a rocky 2014.

“We wonder, what’s next for us?” Haq said.

Listen Radio VR’s Molly Seder interview with Gibran Haq at the link below:

Download audio file

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