Two weeks after the earthquake, Chile begins to return to normal

Transport and communications, as well as drinking water and electric power supply have been almost completely restored.  The main tourist destinations were not affected by the earthquake.


As Chilean television broadcasted the successful benefit show “Chile helps Chile” to raise funds for the close to 2 million people affected by the earthquake and tsunami that hit Chile, local fire stations sounded their sirens in mourning in the early hours of Saturday 6 March, at 3:34 AM local time (6:34 GMT).

It was a week after the tragedy hit, but also seven days of unity, solidarity and hope, reflected in the marathon campaign that the presenter Mario Kreutzberger (Don Francisco) led to raise just over US$ 59 million, over twice the target that the state, private companies and numerous charitable institutions had set.

Official reports affirmed that 497 people had died and the list of names is available in PDF format on the Interior Ministry website.

The authorities have declined to give numbers on missing people, while the number of displaced people continues to be 2 million and the homes affected 500,000. Of the 910,000 public housing units inspected in the six regions hardest-hit by the earthquake, 6,378 present “major” damages and 16,870 suffered “minor” harm.

The health centers that collapsed have been replaced by field hospitals in cities like Rancagua and Curico, while in others like San Fernando, Pichilemu or Rengo they are already operating with normality, Interior Under Secretary Patricio Rosende said.

The Health Ministry began vaccinating against hepatitis A in Constitución. The second stage considers the Libertador, Maule and Bio Bio Regions.

Drinking water services in regions like Bio Bio and Maule have been restored to 50% and 100% of the population, while coverage is practically complete in others like the Valparaiso, the Metropolitan, Libertador, and the Araucanía Regions. The situation is a similar one with electricity, with services back to between 70% and 100%.

Landline telephone services had been almost completely restored in the area hardest-hit by the disaster, while cellular phone services had achieved 90% coverage.

The extensive road network connecting central-southern Chile is in the process of returning to normal. After a study by the Public Works Ministry, it has been calculated that some US$ 1.2 billion would have to be invested to repair infrastructure, including 40 of the 2,000 bridges in the Maule and Bio Bio Regions.

The Pudahuel airport’s operations returned to full capacity. Departures and arrivals of interprovincial buses and public transportation are working under normal conditions. With regard to ports, the MOP found that Talcahuano, Lirquén and San Antonio are operating with some problems, while Coronel and Valparaiso are doing so normally.

The main tourist destinations were not affected by the earthquake. According to the trade association Hoteleros de Chile, over 90% of the infrastructure sector is «working normally.»

After students in the far north and far south already did last week, 80% of elementary and secondary school students returned to class this Monday (March 8), while the elementary and secondary school students from the Maule and Bio Bio Regions will return to school on 15 March.