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Home Our Missions International Relief Helped by Air force, Tzu Chi Begins Aid Distribution in Chile

Helped by Air force, Tzu Chi Begins Aid Distribution in Chile

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On March 25, the Chilean air force will fly 45 tons of aid for the Tzu Chi Foundation from the capital to the southern city of Concepcion, for distribution two days later. It will be the foundation’s first aid distribution in the south American country.

On February 27, an earthquake of 8.8 on the Richter scale hit Concepcion, killing more than 700 people and injuring thousands. It is the second largest city in Chile, with a population of 890,000 in the city and surrounding areas. It was the area worst hit by the earthquake – geologists said that it displaced the city by three meters to the west; for this reason volunteers chose it as the place to make their first distribution. After discussions with the government, they asked the air force to fly the supplies there from the capital, Santiago, in order to deliver it as soon as possible. They will hold the distribution on March 27 and 28, in three districts, to a total of 2,500 households. The supplies include food and blankets.

The quake struck in the early hours of the morning, recalls Shi Zhennan, a foreign businessman who lives in the city. “I was sleeping, at around 3.30 a.m. The quake was very odd. There was no sound. The moment it hit, it was very strong. I have never experienced such a big quake or the way it shook.” Shi guided the volunteers when they went to Concepcion; he showed them the building that was most severely damaged. “There were several hundred households inside, but, thank God, most of them got out when the quake hit. Only around eight to nine people died.” He showed them a building that housed a supermarket and department store: “the power lines or something inside started a fire, which is still being investigated. This building had the most serious fire.” In front of the building, a young couple with a child talked about the emergency measures of the government and the heart-warming way people helped each other; some gave flour and sugar, others brought bottled water from Argentina. After the quake, 10 districts lost power.

The magnitude of the quake was a severe test for Concepcion’s buildings. Most of the structures in the city centre passed the test and remain standing. “Chile is like a sick patient who needs a complete recovery program,” said Carlos Gonzales, a representative of the governor of the region, during a meeting with the volunteers on their second visit to the city. “After the tremors, many residents have no homes and have lost their jobs. These are the problems we have to deal with now. The residents in the three areas where Tzu Chi will distribute the aid badly need it.”

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