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ACT Alliance Preliminary Appeal: Devastating Fire in Valparaiso, Chile

Source: ACT Alliance - Switzerland - Thu, 1 May 2014 11:31 GMT
Author: Elisabeth Gouel
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Preliminary Appeal

Chile

Devastating Fire in Valparaiso, Chile - CHL142

Preliminary Appeal Target: US$167,659
Balance Requested: US$167,659
 
Geneva, 1 May 2014

On 12 April 2014, Valparaiso, capital of the province of the same name, at a distance of 120 kilometres from Santiago, was the scene a ferocious fire that affected 10 hills (Mariposa, Monjas La Cruz, El Litre, Las Cañas, Merced, La Virgen, Santa Elena, Ramaditas y Rocuant) on which most residential zones are located. The fire consumed 1,090 hectares and 2,900 houses, leaving 12.500 persons homeless, and resulting in 15 deaths, most from Cerro Las Cañas.

The blaze began as a forest fire in the woods on the steep slopes of one hill, at the city limits, and quickly spread out of control onto the adjacent hills. Seven hills - La Cruz, El Litre, Las Cañas, La Merced, Ramaditas, Rocuant and Mariposas - sustained major damage. An estimated 76% of homes on these hills in this densely populated area were destroyed. Topography, narrow streets, and the lack of water or fire hydrants on the higher sections of the hills impeded the fire fighters and complicated efforts of residents trying to combat the fire.

NARRATIVE SUMMARY

DETAILS OF THE EMERGENCY
On 12 April 2014, Valparaiso, capital of the province of the same name, at a distance of 120 kilometres from Santiago, was the scene a ferocious fire that affected 10 hills (Mariposa, Monjas La Cruz, El Litre, Las Cañas, Merced, La Virgen, Santa Elena, Ramaditas y Rocuant) on which most residential zones are located. The fire consumed 1,090 hectares and 2,900 houses, leaving 12.500 persons homeless, and resulting in 15 deaths, most from Cerro Las Cañas .

The blaze began as a forest fire in the woods on the steep slopes of one hill, at the city limits, and quickly spread out of control onto the adjacent hills. Seven hills - La Cruz, El Litre, Las Cañas, La Merced, Ramaditas, Rocuant and Mariposas - sustained major damage. An estimated 76% of homes on these hills in this densely populated area were destroyed. Topography, narrow streets, and the lack of water or fire hydrants on the higher sections of the hills impeded the fire fighters and complicated efforts of residents trying to combat the fire.

On April 13 President Michelle Bachelet declared a state of emergency in Valparaíso and appointed a member of the Armed Forces as National Defence Director to take control of security and coordinate the evacuation of thousands.

The disaster crudely exposed poverty, inequality, and the lack of urban planning that affects the city. A Roof for Chile Foundation reports that Valparaiso is the Chilean city with the greatest number of low-income neighbourhoods, and the province is home to a third of all Chilean families who live in shantytowns. An estimated 22% of the city´s population lives well below the national poverty line, as compared with the national average of 14 %.

In 2010 Ivan Poduje, urban development expert and professor at Catholic University of Chile, conducted a study of 25 cities.  His study found that 1.7 million Chileans -10% of the country’s population –“live in urban settlements with high levels of social segregation, poverty and marginalization. In some cases, these are real ghettos.” . Such deep-rooted problems will make recovery, a long complex challenge.

To date, the Valparaiso municipal government has removed 10.900 tons of rubbage , and established 8 shelters in schools that harbour 1.200 people. To assess the situation, the government interviewed 4800 families through its Family Survey to obtain a more accurate assessment of the situation, and to organize the corresponding aid and access to government benefits.

At just over a month since her inauguration, and five days after the terrible fire, on April 17 President Bachelet appointed a presidential delegate to coordinate reconstruction of the areas affected by the fire.

ACTIONS TO DATE, AND EMERGENCY NEEDS
In mid-March 2014 ACT Alliance forum in Chile held their first meeting of the year. On April 1 an earthquake of 8.3 in intensity struck northern Chile, resulting in the country’s first appeal for international emergency assistance. On April 12 the worst fire ever to have affected a residential zone of Chile devastated low-income areas of Valparaiso. In this context, and in light of EPES’ association with community organizations of Region V, EPES initiated the work that informs this request.

On April 14 EPES contacted women’s organizations and cultural centres of Las Cañas and El Litre Hills, where these groups live and/or work. This, our initial information gathering effort, confirmed the total loss of houses, community centres, and a deep sense of dismay in so many residents who lost everything after 30 years or more living, either formally or informally, on these hills. In this district where families lack drinking water, the immediate needs were for food, personal hygiene items, diapers, sanitary napkins, and underwear. EPES coordinated an initial purchase of these supplies but distribution encumbered by vehicular restrictions that made access to the area difficult and finally this was achieved on April 25.

Women and men community leaders identified as the most urgent needs the recovery of homes and psycho-social support for residents who are making extreme efforts to recover their former daily routines. Subsequently, the Educación Popular en Salud Foundation (EPES), in conjunction with ACT members Centro Diego de Medellín, CREAS, and CLAI, as well as local churches and organizations, decided to present this request for additional support to enable us to address more critical issues from/ with our institutional resources and capabilities.

PROPOSED EMERGENCY RESPONSE

OVERALL GOAL:
To support the recovery of dignified living conditions and to strengthen relationships of support and trust of 1,855 people affected by the April 12 fire, by repairing and improving a community centre and 300 emergency dwellings, and implement a community strategy for psychosocial support for children and women in Cerro Las Cañas of Valparaíso.

For the full document, please click here.

 

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