Aid Reaches Fire Survivors in Chile
By Linda Unger*
Santiago, Chile, January 24, 2012—One hundred forty families will receive much-needed food aid from the Methodist Humanitarian Aid Team (EMAH), after fires tore through central Chile last month, destroying homes, forest, pastureland, and crops.
On December 29, the fires ripped through the Biobio Region, consuming 25,000 hectares of land and displacing more than 500 people, EMAH said in a press release. Most of the affected population was located in the towns of Ranquil, Quillon, and Florida, in Ñuble province; 200 families lost their homes.
EMAH, a partner of the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), carried out an assessment of damages and needs in mid-January in coordination with the Red Cross. EMAH determined it would carry out two distributions of food, in February and March, and provide psychosocial support to survivors.
In late 2009, the Methodist Church of Chile requested that UMCOR provide it with training in disaster-response practices. EMAH was formed shortly afterward, just in time to respond to the powerful, 8.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked the country on February 27, 2010.
Since then, UMCOR has worked with EMAH to provide a series of additional disaster-response trainings, which have sharpened the organization’s ability to make critical assessments in an emergency and respond to survivors with care.
In today’s press release, EMAH noted that some of the emergency management lapses at the municipal level that became apparent after the 2010 earthquake in this same region were again present following the fire in Biobio.
The lapses cited included unreliable data, incomplete or inaccurate lists of affected people, and a general lack of coordination in response to the survivors.
In addition, the rural location of the fire and the fact that the population lives scattered throughout the area also presented challenges, EMAH said.
*Linda Unger is staff editor and senior writer for UMCOR.