Hector Quiero, the mayor of one of the regions worst hit by Chile’s huge earthquake in February, arrived at the mine at which 33 men are trapped mid Sunday afternoon. Unfurling a flag covered in the signatures of Licantén residents, he told the press why he has come – to donate 2000 trays of frozen fish, 150 kilos of vegetables, including beans, chickpeas and lentils and 30 jars of papaya jam to the families in ‘Camp Hope’, on behalf of the people of his town.
“It’s our way of saying thanks to the North for all the help they offered us earlier this year,” says Marcelo Valenzuela, a fishing official from the Southern Chilean town who lost his house in the earthquake on February 27th. Not only was the region of Licantén devastated by the gigantic 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck the southern region around Concepción, it was 1 hour after hit by a tsunami.
Following the earthquake, nine Chilean municipalities, regional governments, and various local mining companies from around Copiapó banded together to help Licantén re-establish itself as an important centre for artisan fishing operations.
Hector Quiero personally launched the initiative to help the families at the site of the rescue, naming it “Offering in return a hand, to the people of the north.” As he talks to the press, the truckloads of food he brought are unloaded into three makeshift kitchens where volunteers have been working day in day out to provide food for the hundreds of people camped at the site.
Donations such as these from all around Chile are not unusual, says Rosa Rivera, a municipality worker from the local town of Caldera who has been working in the kitchens for 5 weeks. She joins a team of volunteers who sit awake serving tea and coffee, making sandwiches and clearing up after mechanics, police, social workers, psychologists, press and family members who rush in to eat at all hours.
Just a just few days earlier, she says, a shipment of 11 tonnes of vegetables arrived from Quillota, just north of Santiago. “Everyone around has come up with something; all the local companies and supermarkets, everyone wants to offer something.”
More than two months since the collapse which trapped the miners, the site has become a small city in its own right. Some family members have lived high up on the mountainside since the disaster was announced on August 4th.
As they rally together to keep the feeling of hope and energy alive, keeping up morale is a logistical challenge which would be impossible without the goodwill and support of other Chileans.