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2010-04-13

Six weeks after the earthquake, Chile still getting back on its feet

By Rodrigo Godoy for Infosurhoy.com—13/04/2010

The South American country continues receiving gestures of solidarity

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Chilean President Sebastián Piñera smiles as he is greeted by American President Barack Obama at the Nuclear Safety Summit in Washington, April 12. Piñera announced a new "reconstruction fund" for his battered nation (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GETTY)

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera smiles as he is greeted by American President Barack Obama at the Nuclear Safety Summit in Washington, April 12. Piñera announced a new "reconstruction fund" for his battered nation (JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/GETTY)

SANTIAGO, Chile – Chilean President Sebastián Piñera has submitted to congress his plan to create a fund between US$8 billion and US$10 billion to pay for massive reconstruction efforts nationwide in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami six weeks ago.

Piñera’s bill also awards companies and individuals a tax credit for their donations, which hasn’t been well received by members of the Concertación opposition party.

Still, Piñera is trying to heal the wounds that were created when our nation was ripped by an 8.8-magnitude earthquake. The earth shook so deep on that fateful night, there’s no telling how many years it will take for the country to recover.

Right now, hope and optimism are the best remedies in the wake of a catastrophe that killed more than 400 and impacted millions more. We prayed for a speedy recovery, but we have seen a slow process in which the government has yet to repair the nation’s schools so every student has a place to learn – something Piñera said would be accomplished within 45 days of the natural disaster.

But we should give him credit: It’s not easy to build 56 temporary schools in the four regions that were hardest hit.

Gustavo Cerati, Las Fabulosos Cadillacs and Andrés Calamaro played a free concert in Argentina to benefit our nation, and the English rock group Placebo donated 100% of ticket sales from its show in Santiago.

Argentine bands asked for donations of bottled water, food or winter clothes to help our “Chilean brothers,” as they called their neighbors.

Even with this progress, there is still a lot to do as winter nears, making nights colder and longer.

There are still thousands of people living in tents who only have a bonfire to keep warm to stave off illness and disease.

The country was moved by the April 6 death of 88-year-old Esther Alcántara, who was living in a makeshift tent on a sports field in the city of Rancagua – an hour south of Santiago – when she died of a heart attack, undoubtedly triggered by her dire situation and low temperatures.

The tragedy made us all reflect on how important it is not to let this happen again.

Editor’s note: Godoy is chronicling the aftermath of the 8.8-magnitude earthquake from Santiago.

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