March 2 2010

Situation critical around SOS Children's Villages in Chilean tremor zone

02/03/2010 - After the heavy earthquake of 27 February, the town of Concepción and other affected areas are in a state of emergency. Co-workers at various SOS facilities, several of which have suffered severe damage to buildings, are also reporting that the situation is very threatening. Plunderers have tried to break into the SOS Children's Village in Concepción while the SOS Children's Village in Chaimávida reports thefts of cars and fuel.

Photo: Fernando Espinoza
The SOS Children's Village in Concepción, usually a safe haven, is in a critical situation - Photo: Fernando Espinoza

There are six different facilities that belong to SOS Children's Villages in Concepción and the surrounding area. Of these, the buildings of the SOS Children's Village in Bulnes suffered the most severe damages, six family houses have been rendered uninhabitable. The other SOS projects (in Concepción, Chaimávida, Coyanco, Malleco and Padre las Casas) have reported only slight damages, even though there have been disruptions of the power lines and water supply. Communication is also still virtually impossible.

What has been giving cause for alarm, however, is the security situation, which is rapidly deteriorating. As the director of the SOS Children's Village in Concepción, Jessica Lange, has reported, plunderers attempted to break into the village yesterday. All children and staff have been instructed to remain inside the village without exceptions, as armed and potentially violent people roam the streets. Norma Valdes, the director of the SOS Mothers Training Centre in the vicinity of Concepción, has also reported the sound of gunfire and the looting of all businesses in the area. The phone connection with her was cut off in mid-conversation and it hasn't been possible to reach her since. The SOS Children's Village in Chaimávida, some 20 minutes by car from Concepción has witnessed that cars and fuel were stolen in the neighbourhood.

Photo: SOS Children
The destroyed office building of SOS Children's Villages in Santiago - Photo: SOS Children's Villages Chile

A rescue team of SOS co-workers, headed by Pablo Perez, who just recently returned from a rescue mission in Haiti, is currently on the way to Concepción. A truck with emergency supplies for the SOS Children's Villages, such as drinking water and flour, is also headed to Concepción, but will not be able to access the village directly due to the threat of looting. It will supply the children and co-workers from another location in the city. Another truck from Puerto Mont is bringing blankets, tents, water and other goods to SOS projects.

Photo: Fernando Espinoza
Some 1,500 children are currently growing up in Chile's SOS Children's Villages - Photo: Fernando Espinoza

Co-workers of the national office are currently trying to get the police and the military to ensure safety at the different locations of SOS facilites in the disaster area. SOS Children's Villages Chile has also contacted the Chilean children and youth authorities to coordinate possible help measures.

One of SOS Children's Villages offices in the capital was destroyed, staff members had to move to SOS Children's Villages' Chilean headquarters for the time being

Proposals for aid initiatives will be made once the situation has returned to normal and SOS Children's Villages has gained an overview of the need of help measures for children and families within its own facilities. In principle, SOS Children's Village has the capacity to accommodate unaccompanied and particularly desperate children temporarily while the situation of their family is being investigated.