Chile earthquake: President Bachelet opens up to foreign aid
After days of holding off on accepting foreign aid offers in the wake of the Chile earthquake, President Michelle Bachelet has now welcomed help from abroad.
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Japan said it would be providing $3 million in emergency grants, as well as sending emergency supplies such as tents, water cleaners, and generators. China promised to send $1 million.Skip to next paragraph
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US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is expected to arrive in Chile on Tuesday, and the United States has said it will offer support and solidarity to the nation. The European Union has pledged $4 million in immediate assistance.
International aid groups, in the midst of unprecedented recovery efforts in Haiti, which was devastated by a magnitude-7.0 earthquake in January, are also planning to pitch in.
The Red Cross said its volunteers are providing first aid, and has released $280,000 for relief efforts, though their crews already on the ground are leading the efforts. On Monday, the World Health Organization said it is working closely with Chile's government to assess the status of health facilities and support the delivery of healthcare. Indigenous populations are expected to be most at risk, the WHO said on Monday. They also report that 500,000 homes were destroyed.
The United Nations said Monday it would quickly send relief to Chile after the government opened up to aid and identified its emergency needs as temporary bridges, field hospitals, satellite phones, electric generators, damage assessment teams, water purification systems, field kitchens, and dialysis centers.
Chile's own efforts
Chile’s Ministry of Health says that four Chilean Air Force field hospitals are being set up with the capacity for 50 to 60 patients each, and there may be a need for additional temporary facilities to fill the gap left by the damaged facilities.
President Bachelet has dispatched 10,000 troops to restore order, especially in the towns most affected in the Maule region, along the Chilean coast. There, officials have said that 80 percent of towns are destroyed. While the price tag of reconstruction is not yet known, it will be billions of dollars.
The initial assessments, which put the death toll at just over 200, were hampered by telecommunications outages, and also by the fact that February is typically a vacation month in Chile as the summer in the Southern Hemisphere draws to a close, says Mr. Navia. Also, as overwhelmingly popular Bachelet prepares to step down from office March 11, with a new government coming into office, there may have been an element of winding down. “She was a day late in terms of her reaction,” Navia says.
But, he adds, "for an 8.8 earthquake, one of the strongest in the history of the world, the country reacted fairly well."
Bachelet's government initially declined international offers to help.
“We are very grateful for people's good intentions, but let's let the [Chilean] emergency office get its very specific report on needs done," Foreign Minister Mariano Fernandez said on Saturday. Chile does not want "aid from anywhere to be a distraction" from disaster relief, he said. "Any aid that arrives without having been determined to be needed really helps very little."
Bachelet later said that some international aid could be used to fund field hospitals, temporary bridges, and water plants.