Description of the disaster On 16 September 2015, an 8.4 earthquake hit the regions of Atacama and La Araucanía in Chile. The National Emergency Office of the Ministry of the Interior (ONEMI) issued a tsunami alert for the entire coastal area in Chile, evacuating more than 600,000 people. ONEMI reported that approximately 681,484 people were affected and the Coquimbo region was declared a catastrophe area.
According to damage and needs assessments (DANA) conducted by the Chilean Red Cross (ChRC) in the Coquimbo region, there were 13 deaths, 6 people were unaccounted for, 15 people were injured and 57 people were in evacuation centres in Coquimbo. Reports indicated that 704 homes were destroyed, 1,245 homes were rendered uninhabitable and 3,122 homes had minor damage. Additionally, 1,183 people lost electricity, but the clean and safe water supply soon returned to normal.
The DANA conducted by the Chilean Red Cross by sectors also revealed the following information:
Health: The nine hospitals in the Coquimbo region were operating normally. Hospital emergency units were reinforced for possible increase in patients.
Education: Sixteen schools in the region were unable to resume classes, specifically those in the communities of: Coquimbo (1), Monte Patria (1), Combarbalá (1), Ovalle (4), Canela (7), and Illapel (2); Escuela de Comercio in Coquimbo was destroyed. Only the schools in the province of Elqui were able to resume operations while others awaited technical assessments to gage the damage. As a result, students had to be relocated.
Airports: La Florida in the community of La Serena, Tuquí in the community of Ovalle and Aucó in the community of Illapel were operating normally. Dams in La Paloma, Cogotí, Puclaro, Laguna, Culimo and Coirón did not suffer any structural damage.
Roads: Most roads were blocked by landslides. Those most affected were Illapel, Canela, Salamanca and Combarbala; however, these areas were not cut-off since alternative roads exist. The Roads Directorate cleared debris, but the border crossing at Juntas del Toro in Elqui was closed.
Ports: The port of Coquimbo was closed due to infrastructure damage, while the ports of Tongoy and Los Vilos remained operational; 17 fishing bays were also closed because of infrastructural damage, and the fishing bays at Limarí, Peñuelas and Guayacán suffered structural damage that prevented their operations. Caution was required during sea travel, especially in Tongoy, due to shipwrecks; a total of 88 vessels were damaged at the regional level.
Agriculture: Irrigation channels in the province of Choapa were affected by landslides, which interrupted irrigation processes. Survey activities conducted by National Irrigation Commission technicians started on 21 September 2015 in order to determine the damage and establish the appropriate courses of action.
The Chilean government provided financial support to the affected families in regions III and IV by distributing following vouchers:
Household items voucher for 1,000,000 Chilean pesos (CHF 1,366.25) for families who lost their household items to the tsunami (one time only)
500,000 Chilean pesos (CHF 683.13) to families who lost their household items to the earthquake (one time only)
Shelter Voucher for 200,000 Chilean pesos (CHF 273.25) for 3 months for families whose housing was affected, which could be renewed for an additional 3 months.