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2010-03-01

World promises to help Chile in rebuilding efforts

A man sits among his belongings on the street after a tsunami struck Penco, which is about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from Concepción, the day after a massive, 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile. (Martín Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images)

A man sits among his belongings on the street after a tsunami struck Penco, which is about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from Concepción, the day after a massive, 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile. (Martín Bernetti/AFP/Getty Images)

By Jon Gallo for Infosurhoy.com—01/03/2010

SANTIAGO, Chile – The United States and Europe promised financial support to Chile as teams of international relief workers descended on the South American nation, which suffered the Western Hemisphere's second massive earthquake in seven weeks, according to Agence France-Presse. Chile, one of South America's richest countries, appreciates the help but wanted to survey the total extent of the damage before beginning any relief effort. “We are very grateful for people's good intentions, but let's let the (Chilean) emergency office get its very specific report on needs done,” Mariano Fernández, the country’s foreign minister, told reporters. “[Chile does not want] aid from anywhere to be a distraction [to the disaster relief]. Any aid that arrives without having been determined to be needed really helps very little.” The earthquake is believed to have damaged more than a million homes, caused cracks in roads, left millions without power and damaged the airport in the capital of Santiago, according to AFP. But the most severe damage happened in Concepción, the nation's second-largest city about 310 miles south of Santiago, which was very close to the epicenter. “We anticipate the situation in the worst-affected areas closer to the epicenter to be much more serious,” said Pete Garratt, the disaster relief manager for Britain's Red Cross. “Our fear is that this quake will have had large-scale impact.” Meantime, United Nations Chief Ban Ki-moon “is very closely monitoring developments, including the risk of Pacific Rim tsunamis, after the huge earthquake in Chile,” his office told AFP. United States President Barack Obama said his government will approve any request made by the Chilean government for aid, and the European Union already has offered €3 million (US$4.09 million) that could be made available immediately, according to AFP. The United States “stands ready to assist in the rescue and recovery efforts, and we have resources that are positioned to deploy should the Chilean government ask for our help,” Obama said during a speech.

Red Cross confident it can simultaneously coordinate relief efforts in Chile and Haiti

The Red Cross’ mission just got a lot harder, as the organization now must coordinate assistance in Chile, while sustaining a major, long-term rebuilding project in Haiti. “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, to the Los Angeles Times. In the seven weeks since Haiti was rocked by a 7.0-magnitude earthquake, the Red Cross raised US$322 million, and Porterfield envisions another emergency account being set up to help Chileans, according to the Los Angeles Times. Doctors Without Borders already has sent a staff to Chile in addition to numerous medical personnel it has stationed throughout Haiti. The next test is for smaller charities to be able to generate money for Chile as successfully as they did for Haiti. “The nongovernmental organizations have been tapped out and stretched by the tough economy,” said Thomas Tighe, president and chief executive of Direct Relief International, based in Goleta, Calif., to the Los Angeles Times. “I'm not sure if there was another Haiti next week that people could do the same. But our assumption is that if there is a precise need and compelling case, people will step up.”

Google starts a 'person finder' to locate Chile earthquake victims

Google has created a “person finder,” an online tool that helps relatives and friends connect with loved ones in the wake of the massive, 8.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked Chile, according to Agence France-Presse. Google's “Person Finder: Chile Earthquake” can be accessed at Chilepersonfinder.appspot.com and allows use of the application in English or Spanish. It asks those who log on “What is your situation?” and offers the choice between “I'm looking for someone” and “I have information about someone.” Users can search for a person’s name or information. The site for Chile, which already has more than 1,400 records that can be searched, is modeled after the one the Internet company already started following the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti, which has nearly 60,000 records available for searching, according to AFP.

World's largest retailer to make initial, US$1 million donation to Chile's relief effort

Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, has made an initial donation of US$1 million to help the earthquake relief effort in Chile. “With the impact of this earthquake on our own communities, customers, associates and suppliers, we wanted to reach out with assistance as soon as possible,” Eduardo Solórzano, who heads Wal-Mart Latin America, wrote in a statement. The company employs a workforce of about 34,000 at the D&S food store chain in Chile that it purchased in January of last year, but it is unknown the extent of damage the earthquake inflicted on the stores, according to Business Week.

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