Aid Influx Begins In Quake-Stricken Chile
By Dialogo March 04, 2010Aid from Chile's Latin American neighbors began arriving Tuesday after President Michelle Bachelet called for help to handle the fallout of a massive earthquake that killed more than 700 people. Santiago's damaged airport saw the first influx of supplies from the region since Bachelet's formal plea for aid including mobile bridges, field hospitals, satellite phones, electrical generators and water purification systems. Visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brought 20 satellite telephones and a technician, while an Argentine military plane unloaded a field hospital to help treat victims of Saturday's 8.8-magnitude quake. President Alan Garcia of Peru, Chile's neighbor to the north that has had tense relations in recent years over trade issues and a niggling border dispute, meanwhile announced he would fly to Santiago Tuesday to personally express his solidarity and supervise the delivery of 30 tonnes of humanitarian aid. Lima was to send a field hospital, medical personnel and supplies including tents and blankets to aid hundreds of thousands of newly homeless quake victims. Bolivia announced it was sending 60 tonnes of humanitarian aid and 60,000 liters of drinking water, while Chile's ambassador in Cuba, Gabriel Gaspar, said Havana had promised to send a 27-person medical team. Governments around the world made immediate pledges of aid after Chile said it needed help to deal with the aftermath of the historic quake, which left large swaths of the country a disaster zone. Some two million Chileans, one eighth of the entire population, are estimated to have been affected by the quake, one of the most powerful on record, which caused a tsunami that swept away coastal villages. Clinton also noted that US search and rescue teams were on standby in needed and her State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said in Washington that the US was ramping up aid efforts. "Chile has requested our help in terms of providing a field hospital, communications support, and water purification systems. And so we are mobilizing those capabilities as we speak and will be moving those down to Chile as quickly as possible," Crowley said. Russia will send two planeloads of humanitarian aid to Chile at the order of President Dmitry Medvedev, a Kremlin spokesman said. The Emergency Situations ministry will "send two planes with tents, warm clothing, electrical generators and essential supplies," the spokesman told ITAR-TASS news agency, without stating when the aid would be dispatched. Australia, which along with most of the Pacific was placed on tsunami alert after the quake, pledged 4.5 million US dollars in emergency and reconstruction aid. The European Union said it was ready to deploy "an assessing mission" to look at damage to hospitals, schools and other facilities, its foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said. The European Commission has already approved three million euros (four million dollars) in emergency aid for Chile, while Japan has pledged three million dollars and China one million.