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Devastating Fire in Valparaiso
Geneva, 18 April 2014
1. Brief description of the emergency and impact
A voracious fire that started on Saturday, April 12th and spread through the hills of the port city of Valparaiso, central region of Chile leaving at least 15 people dead, 500 injured, 2,900 homes completely destroyed and another 12.500 homes damaged. The affected families have lost all their belongings. The fire has not been yet extinguished. This is the second major catastrophe that hit Chile in the past three weeks. An earthquake of 8.2 struck northern Chile on April 1st leaving an extended devastation.
The fire began in a forest on one of the city’s heavily populated hills quickly turning into an extensive and uncontrollable blaze, destroying seventy-six percent of the homes in the slums of La Cruz, El Litre, Las Cañas, Merced, Ramadita, Rocuant and Mariposas where the narrow, steep and twisting streets made it hard for firefighters to extinguish the blaze. Valparaiso is a city with more than one third of the families living in shantytowns and twenty-two percent of the city´s population lives below the poverty line.
2. Why is an ACT response needed?
The strong emotional impact on the affected population is very visible. Faith-based and community organisations play an important role in the psychosocial support. The President of Chile has called on civil society and churches to provide support for the affected population, especially calling on churches to develop social support initiatives. The experience after the 2010 earthquake has prepared ACT Alliance to provide support in this disaster.
3. National and international response
President Bachelet declared a state of emergency for the region; the army is in control of security and the evacuation of thousands of residents. Government is in charge of the main response, but churches and organizations are providing food and non-food items donated by the Chileans.
4. ACT Alliance response
The forum is carrying out a complete assessment, conducted by Fundación Educación Popular en Salud (EPES), in collaboration with CREAS, CLAI and with local churches and community organizations to find out the most critical issues that ACT Alliance can address based on institutional resources and capacities. The Lutheran and Methodist churches are already supporting the affected population with some food and non food items, donated by congregations and citizens.
5. Planned activities
The forum is planning to work with 300 families in two of the most affected communities in the hills Litre and Las Cañas, on psycho-social support with children, women, men and young people.
The main constraint is the coming rainy and cold winter given the lack of infrastructure for the affected families.
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