AO PAULO: March 01: Even as coastal areas from Australia to the Russian Far East to Hawaii heaved of collected sigh of relief on Sunday as the feared tsunami waves triggered by the Chile earthquake of Saturday failed to do any major damage anywhere except in Japan, the picture emerging from the interiors of Chile is that of absolute catastrophe. The 8.8 degree temblor that hit the central-southern Chile on Saturday morning, has left more than 700 people dead and at least 2 million people homeless in this South American nation.
The massive earthquake also left some 53 countries anxious with suspense and prepared for a major disaster for almost 24 hours, the time that scientists predicted it would take shock waves from the powerful earthquake to race across the ocean in the form of massive waves.
The biggest earthquake to hit Chile in 25 years ripped apart buildings, highways and bridges and left a path of smoky rubble across a long swath of the. The death toll was expected to rise, particularly around Concepción, Chile’s second-largest metropolitan area, which is roughly 70 miles from the quake’s center. "We are facing a catastrophe of historic proportions," Chilean Interior Minister Edmundo Perez Yoma told reporters on Sunday.
Indian community, were trying to put their lives back on track.
Though the capital city of Santiago, which was shaken for more than 90 seconds on Saturday, was calm on Sunday with people, including the small Indian community, were trying to put their lives back on track amid smoke and rubble. "I have spoken to a number of Indians since morning and I haven’t heard of any loss of life among the community so far. However, our apartment has been damaged very badly with a lot of cracks on the ceilings and on the walls. Apart from this a lot of our furniture has been destroyed," said Prakash Bhojwani, a businessman and director of the Indian Association of Santiago, speaking to TOI from the Chilean capital.
Many of the businesses of Indian nationals have been badly affected by the earthquake, with office buildings developing wide long cracks. Two high-end Indian restaurants and a plush perfume shop has also been damaged. "Most of the Indians here have suffered huge damages to their business. All these damages will take weeks if not months to repair and bring back to useable conditions," said Bhojwani, who was trying to organize aid for the members of the Indian community in Chile.
There are around 1000 Indians, mostly engaged in trade and business, in Chile. Out of these some 500 live in Santiago and the rest are spread over other parts of the country.
On Sunday, there were long lines at supermarkets and gas stations in Santiago, but the scene was grimmer in Concepción and surrounding areas to the south. In Talca, 167 miles south of Santiago, almost every home in the center of the city was severely damaged.
Though on Saturday Chilean President Michele Bachlet said that Chile didn’t need any foreign assistance, some aid from other countries and relief agencies has started to arrive in Santiago. On Saturday, US President Bracak Obama offered aid in rescue and recovery efforts. Obama told Bachelet that the US was ready to help if needed. "We will be there for her should the Chilean people need assistance," he said in a statement in Washington.
Disaster relief may become a challenge in Chile as officials were faced with a daunting mission on Sunday, trying to arrange assistance to victims of the massive earthquake in Chile while maintaining full-throttle operations in Haiti.Though officials of large international organizations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross feel they have the resources to send emergency responders and humanitarian aid to a number of hot spots. But the same may not be true for smaller groups whose focus is on long-term rebuilding efforts.
"Organizations like ours are able to coordinate on multiple disasters," said Red Cross spokesman Eric Porterfield, citing as an example the cyclone in Myanmar and the earthquake in China’s Sichuan province in May 2008.