February 27 2010

Chile Earthquake: First report from SOS Children's Villages

27/02/2010 - This report is directly from the SOS Children’s Villages office in Santiago. An earthquake measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale rocked the coast of Chile this morning at about 3:34 local time affecting from the First to the Tenth Region of the country (from Tarapacá to Chiloe). The epicentre was located in the Bio Bio region (whose capital is the city of Concepción).

Communication with the programmes and among co-workers of the SOS Children's Villages facilities has been practically impossible, because mobile phone communication is not working and landline is available only in some areas. We have received reports from the villages in Santiago and Curicó only, where no fatal victims or infrastructure damages were identified. Luckily Even in Curicó, which is located very close to the epicentre, there were no damages.

We also know that the historical part of Santiago has been heavily damaged.  There are many areas without electricity. Public transport in the capital has been stopped, too. Nor the Metro or the Transantiago (urban buses) is in operation and there are very few taxis moving around the streets. In the rest of the country, the Ministry of Public Works announced the suspension of various roads due to the collapse of bridges and viaducts. The local authorities have recommended people on summer vacation not to move from where they are or go back to the capital, because road conditions should be first evaluated. The International Airport Arturo Merino Benitez is damaged and is closed for at least 48 hours.

In general, the population has remained calm, but many people went out from their houses when the earthquake hit in order to find refuge in the parks and squares, far from the tall buildings. The situation is still tense, while alarms of different types are heard permanently everywhere. Several industrial fires have been reported, too, but no public disorder has been identified.

The National Office building has experienced a few damages only: roofs and masonry detachments and, besides those, the fall of the majority of the computers and other office items. I got to the office at 8:30 to evaluate the damages.

I am trying hard to get in contact with the Bio Bio region and the SOS facilities around. And while I am writing this report another strong quake has hit Santiago.

Victor Beltrán
National Director
SOS Children's Villages Chile