Earthquake / Tsunami in Chile: Response Action Plan Approved

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has approved use of the Disaster Relief Emergency Fund (DREF), as requested by the Chilean Red Cross. The targeted use of the DREF is provide humanitarian aid to 450 families affected by the recent earthquake and tsunami throughout the provinces of Choapa, Elqui, and Limari, communities of Canela, Illapel, Coquimbo, and Monte Patria, and the towns of Canela Baja, Illapel, Gabriela, Baquedano, Peñuela, and Tulahuen.

On September 16ht, 2015, an earthquake registering 8.4 on the Richter scale shook Chile between the Atacama and La Araucanía regions. The National Emergency Office (ONEMI, per its Spanish acronym) issued a tsunami warning for the entire Chilean coastal area, evacuating over 600,000 people. ONEMI reports that approximately 681,484 people were affected as a result of the earthquake, and has declared the Coquimbo region as a disaster area.

According to the damage and need assessments carried out in Coquimbo by the Chilean Red Cross, there were 13 casualties, 6 people are missing, 15 wounded, and 57 people currently in Coquimbo’s evacuation centres. An estimated 704 houses were destroyed, 1,245 rendered uninhabitable, 3,122 houses with minor damage, and 1,183 people have been left without electricity. The drinkable water supply has already been restored.

Chilean Red Cross assessments have also found:

Health: The nine hospitals in the Coquimbo region are operating as normal. Hospital emergency units have reinforced for a possible increase in patients.

Education: 16 schools in the region are unable to resume classes, notably in the communities of Coquimbo (1), Monte Patria (1), Combarbalá (1), Ovalle (4), Canela (7) , and Illapel (2). The Commerce Education Centre in Coquimbo has been destroyed. Only the schools in the Elqui province have been able to resume classes while others wait on a technical evaluation to assess the damage. Students will be relocated, although it is highly unlikely that classes resume before September 28th.

Airports and dams: The La Florida airport in the La Serena community, the Tuqui airport in the Ovalle community, and the Aucó airport in the Illapel community are all operating as normal. Dams in La Paloma, Cogotí, Puclaro, Laguna, Culimo, and Coirón have not sustained any structural damage.

Roads: The majority of roads had been blocked by landslides. lllapel, Canela, Salamanca, and Combarbalá were the most affected communities. These communities were not completely isolated, however, thanks to alternate routes. Chile’s Road Directorate is currently working on cleaning away the debris.

Border crossings: The border crossing at Juntas del Toro, in the Elqui province on the Argentinian border, is closed

Ports: The Port of Coquimbo is closed due to damage sustained to its infrastructure, while the ports of Tongoy and Los Vilos function as normal; 17 fishing bays are also closed due to damage sustained to infrastructure. The bays of Limarí, Peñuelas, and Guayacán have suffered damage to their infrastructure that is preventing normal operations. Precautions are to be taken if travelling by sea, especially in Tongoy, due to the debris of 88 shipwrecked vessels.

Agriculture: The irrigation canals in the Choapa province have been affected by the landslides, which has interrupted the irrigation process.

The Chilean Red Cross took action on all levels at the onset of this emergency. All members of the National Society headquarters were proactive in advising branches and regional committees throughout the affected areas. Teams were deployed in affected areas to assess the needs of affected people and provide first aid, psychosocial support, health and hygiene promotion, and shelter support in the community of Los Vilos, given that the local branch is a safe evacuation point. Branch staff provided recommendations on how to handle drinking water and sanitation; these recommendations were broadcast through local media channels, as was information regarding the Chilean Red Cross response as it developed.

The National Society is also using local media channels to promote donation in kind of hygiene kits, bottle water, blankets, and mattresses, as well as cash donations through a State Bank checking account (account no. 292222).

The IFRC regional representation office in Lima, Peru, has been offering support as required by the Chilean Red Cross. The Panamerican Disastre Response Unit (PADRU), through its coordination of disaster management for South America, has been providing technical support and supervision of the operation.

Action Plan

The Action Plan proposed by the Chilean Red Cross to use these funds has been structured as follows:

Emergency Health Action: To address and cover the needs of 400 families through information modules in each area of orientation, providing information on disease prevention, or healthy practices to prevent any disease brought about by the emergency. The National Society has already been providing first aid and psychosocial support to affected people; as such, first aid supplies that have been used will be replenished so that the National Society is prepared in case first aid is required during cleaning and repair activities. Community Health promotion workshops will also take palce.

Psychosocial Support Actions:

  • Emotional aid to first responders involved in the operation.

  • Psychosocial support to the population.

  • Psychosocial sensitization campaign.

  • Psychosocial support in schools

  • Psychosocial support workshops for volunteers.

Water and Sanitation actions: The Chilean Red Cross has distributed 500 jerrycans and 250 hygiene kits that were already on standby to tend to the needs of 250 families; DREF funds will replenish these supplies. Hygiene promotion activities for 400 families will take place in the provinces of Coquimbo and Ovalle in the Atacama desert. Priority communities will be identified during these activities in order to promote resilience.

Shelter and Refuge: Cash transfer programs for 400 families will be implemented after assessment, and a conditional delivery will be provided for Coquimbo (Baquedano and Gabriela Mistral), Illapel, Monte Patria, and Tongoy to repair homes and recover home supplies and materials necessary to return to their homes. The National Society will distribute cleaning kits to the community, thanks to donations in kind from Procter & Gamble and Clorox. The latter will send their donations directly to the field. The DREF will also cover transportation and operational costs, such as tolls, fuel, and other logistical considerations necessary for distribution.