CARITAS emergency response and search and rescue teams have moved from the horror of Haiti to face more human tragedy in Chile as they assist survivors from the latest earthquake disaster.
Caritas Australia chief executive officer Jack de Groot said a Mexican search and rescue team was due to arrive in Santiago last week in the wake of the massive 8.8 magnitude Chilean earthquake of Saturday, February 27.
“Our emergency response teams are under incredible stress at the moment,” Mr de Groot said.
“Director of Emergency Operations for Caritas Internationalis, Alistair Dutton, is on his way from Haiti together with a search and rescue team.
“This team worked with Caritas and had great success in pulling people alive from the rubble more than twenty days after the Haitian earthquake.
“The Chilean earthquake could not have come at a worse time.
“This has come after the horror of Haiti where our teams have been working around the clock for almost two months since that earthquake.”
The earthquake struck about 115km north-east of the city of Concepcion (population 300,000) in Chile and 325km south-west of the capital Santiago.
By Tuesday, more than 700 people had been confirmed dead with this number expected to rise significantly.
Many of Concepcion’s inhabitants are short of food and have seen their water and electricity supplies cut off.
About two million Chileans are believed to have been affected by Saturday’s earthquake, the seventh most powerful on record and the worst disaster to befall Chile in 50 years.
The Chilean earthquake comes only six weeks after Haiti’s massive earthquake which left an estimated 150,000 dead.
Mr de Groot said Caritas Chile and the bishops were keeping branches of the international organisation updated on the needs of the people.
“Chile has faced a terrible catastrophe,” he said.
“People can be assured though that the strength of the Caritas network is capable and is in fact already delivering assistance in Chile.
“Our vast network on the ground that is mobilised through the power and reach of the Catholic Church has enormous experience in responding to these types of disasters and we will be committed to the long-term rehabilitation for the people of Chile.”
Caritas centres in 23 dioceses and archdioceses in Chile have been mobilised including La Serena, Santiago, Concepción, Puerto Montt, Arica, Iquique, Copiapó, San Felipe, Valparaíso, Melipilla, San Bernardo, Rancagua, Talca, Linares, Chillán, Los Ángeles, Temuco, Villarrica, Valdivia, Osorno, Ancud and Punta Arenas.
To support Caritas Australia’s response to the Chilean earthquake call 1800 024 413 or visit www.caritas.org.au