An 8.2-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Tarapacá Region, Chile, late April 1. A six-foot tsunami and several strong aftershocks, including one of 7.6 magnitude, have followed. Arica and Iquique, where most of the population is concentrated, have received waves up to 10 feet, provoking power cuts, fires and landslides. At least six people were killed and several people had been seriously injured. More than 900,000 people – most of them reportedly well prepared with flashlights and loaded backpacks – evacuated to higher ground.
Chile’s president declared the Tarapacá Region and the Region of Arica and Parinacota as disaster areas.
A number of adobe homes were reported destroyed in Arica. Fishing communities looked to be among the worst affected due to the fact that they lost their small fishing vessels. There is no reported need for water, food or shelter materials.
Most of the population is showing stress and traumatic symptoms, as residents in the area have been expecting “the big one” for many years and the media have contributed to feeding those fears. The Nazca and South American tectonic plates rub up against each other just off the coast of Iquique, where a “seismic gap” has been building up for 137 years.
CWS is closely monitoring the situation and is in contact with local partners and authorities to get updated information on any new developments. CWS will respond as a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of churches and agencies engaged in development, humanitarian assistance and advocacy.
ACT member Diego de Medellin Ecumenical Centre (CEDM) is doing a series of needs assessments in coastal communities in cooperation with the Evangelical Methodist Church and Chile’s national humanitarian network. The assessment team visited Arica April 2, and is in the process of developing a second report on the situation of the Tarapacá Region.
The main need identified so far is for psychosocial support and post-trauma counseling. The ACT Alliance is mobilizing two psychosocial support community-based experts from the region to draw a strategy for the affected population. No foreign expertise is needed at this time.
Further assessment continues. The ACT Alliance will share its plans and further activities soon.
HOW TO HELP
Financial contributions to support CWS emergency response efforts may be made securely online or mailed to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515.
Church World Service is a member of the ACT Alliance, a global coalition of churches and agencies engaged in development, humanitarian assistance and advocacy.