Chile

Aid is arriving in Chilean communities affected by the cold wave

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Susana Arroyo

Strong rains and severe floods have affected almost 150,000 people in the VIII and IX regions of southern Chile. According to the Chilean Office of Emergencies (ONEMI), 23 people have died, 7000 families have been severely affected and almost 900 are already living in temporary shelters.

The Chilean Red Cross has launched a national appeal in response to the emergency. Some 300 volunteers are already delivering humanitarian aid and basic health care to the injured. Food, children clothes, shoes, mattresses and hygiene articles are the priority needs. The ONEMI is undertaking a new situation assessment.

The national government and ONEMI have declared the Chilean Red Cross the organization in charge of all humanitarian aid distribution. "This decision reflects the confidence the population and the institutions have in the Red Cross," explained Miguel Angel Cabrera, National Relief Director at the Chilean Red Cross.

The Chilean Red Cross has already supported more than 1200 families and, together with the Chilean Army and Air Force, delivered almost 100 tons of humanitarian aid. "The aid delivered by the Red Cross has gone to the most affected families," said Miguel Angel Cabrera. "Now, we are sending more clothes, blankets and food. Our goal is to support at least other 2000."

The Chilean Red Cross has put in a request to the International Federation for 130,000 CHF in emergency funds. This will be used to provide food kits to affected families in Bio-Bio, Araucanía and nearby communities over the coming month.

The Pan-American Disaster Response Unit in Panama has sent an airplane carrying 2000 hygiene kits to support relief efforts in Santiago de Chile. An Argentina Red Cross volunteer member of the trained regional intervention team will also spend a month working with the Chilean Red Cross to support all emergency relief, assessment and delivery tasks.

The private sector is also lending its support. In one initiative, a well-known supermarket chain has worked with the Red Cross volunteers to set up dedicated collection points for food, clothes and other articles donated by the public. In another, a major store has pledged to donate one pair of shoes to the Chilean Red Cross for every two pairs sold. This campaign has been published in the main journals and on radio and television.

"The floods have destroyed a lot of families' personal belongings," said Sergio Bravo, National Communications Director. "We hope this alliance helps us to collect as many pairs of shoes as possible."

Even when the rains have lessened, the national authorities acknowledge that another cold wave could hit the area during this winter.