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Friday 26 March 2010

ShelterBox gets aid to remote areas in Chile
ShelterBox gets aid to remote areas in Chile Aid recipient Sara Norambvena , aged 70, said she never thought she would lose her home and ShelterBox is the first aid agency she has seen. Photograph: Andy Green

ShelterBox Response Teams (SRT) in earthquake-hit Chile have been delivering emergency shelter to remote communities across a huge geographical area.

The 8.8-magnitude quake that struck the South American country a month ago caused widespread destruction in dozens of towns and villages and triggered a tsunami which ravaged a large section of the Chilean coast.

A SRT made up of Jessica Stanton, Andy Green, Sallie Buck and Malcolm Shead (all UK) has been delivering disaster relief tents and life-saving supplies for up to 10,000 people in four different regions of southern Chile.

      The distribution area in Chile covers an area roughly the size of the Netherlands

The massive area stretches from Iloca, north of the worst-affected city Concepcion, to Lebu on the coast, and measures an estimated 40,000 square kilometers – roughly the size of the Netherlands.

Jessica Stanton, ShelterBox Operations Coordinator and Team Leader in Chile, said: ‘This deployment has been by far the most complex I’ve experienced. The effects of the disaster are split across such an enormous area. It was one of the biggest earthquakes ever with some communities hit by the earthquake and others by the subsequent tsunami. Every town we are going to is in a critical state but we have to ensure the 1,000 tents we have on the ground go to those most in need.

‘Yesterday we gave a box to a large family where the mother was just three days away from giving birth and her older baby had bronchitis. They had been living in a greenhouse with no proper floor and because it’s so hot and dusty it was making the baby’s condition worse. They were very emotional when they received the ShelterBox and everybody just burst out crying.’

'Unbelievably resilient'

The team has been working with the NGO, Un Techo Para Chile, consignee Adelphos, logistics firm Goodyear and Rotary clubs, Scouts and fire services to ensure aid is distributed.

A fifth ShelterBox Response Team member, Peter Leach (UK), has been based in Santiago assisting with customs and logistics. ShelterBoxes have so far been given out to people who have lost their homes in Retiro, Parral, Cauquenes, Chanco and Copihue. Along the coast, Talcahuano, Lebu and Coronle have also received ShelterBox aid.

Andy Green said: ‘ShelterBox has been working in some of the hardest to reach places in rural Chile near the epicentre of the earthquake. We are the first organisation to be operating in the rural areas around some of the towns and villages.

‘The small town of Retiro was one of the worst affected places and a huge distance away from any major routes. We have been working with the Retiro scouts and Retiro fire bridage to work in areas that have not received aid.’

Aid recipient Sara Norambvena, 70, said: ‘I never thought I would lose my house. Thanks to ShelterBox I have a place now to spend the winter that is coming. I have seven grandchildren that I look after and now having these two tents means we will be safe. Shelterbox is the first aid we have seen since the earthquake. We are so happy we have not been forgotten.’

Jessica added: ‘Down on the coast, such as in Talcahuano, we delivered boxes to families who had been living under plastic sheeting in really cramped conditions. The rains are due imminently and once they start, the whole situation will become a million times worse.

'In more urban areas such as Parral, there is a lot less space and with all the buildings made of mud and sand, the earthquake turned the whole town into rubble. In the old mining town of Coronle, houses built on top of mining tunnels which have collapsed have caused the houses to slip downhill. And in the fishing town of Lebu, people have not only lost their homes but also their livelihoods.

'The Chilean people are unbelievably resilient and are really pulling together.’

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