Speedy recovery begins in Chile after wildfire

by ShelterBox | @ShelterBox | ShelterBox
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 14:08 GMT

VALPARAISO, CHILE. 14 MAY 2014. Rebuilding underway in the hills. (Torstein Nielson/ShelterBox)

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As Chile’s port city of Valparaíso begins quick recovery efforts after a wildfire left thousands homeless, a response team carrying out assessments in the area has decided ShelterBox aid is not needed during this time.

The great wildfire of Valparaíso started on 12 April 2014 at 16:40 local time in the hills of the colourful coastal city in Chile. With Valparaíso’s steep hills scored by multiple ravines that create an amphitheatre-like layout, the fire grew uncontrollable, destroying around 3,000 homes leaving 13,000 people homeless. A further 6,000 people were evacuated. Subsequently, the Chilean government declared Valparaíso a disaster zone.

Whilst the flickering orange flames continued to destroy complete neighborhoods following the evacuation, there were several general power outages in the city, making it more difficult to extinguish the fire. This also made it easier for thieves to loot evacuated homes.

Worst fire in Valparaíso’s history

‘It may be the worst fire in the history of Valparaíso,’ said Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet. She continued to say that she did not rule out that the number of victims and the damage estimate could increase as the ruins are inspected to determine the number of destroyed houses. Bachelet also sent ‘a message of support to all those hundreds of families who lost their homes, things, and in some cases, loved ones.’

In total, according to the National Emergency Office of Ministry of the Interior and Public Security (ONEMI), around 3,500 people from the fire services, police, army, health services and ONEMI itself worked to combat and control the wildfire. ONEMI has also sent trucks with mattresses, blankets, water, masks, tents and food rations for survivors who are taking shelter across three schools and a church.

Vegetation destroyed

Kevin Moforte, a response team volunteer based in Chile, had undertaken some preliminary surveys of the area before two additional response team members arrived at the beginning of May, including Torstein Nielsen.

‘It has been reported that many Valparaíso residents have suffered from smoke inhalation,’ said Torstein. ‘The impoverished neighbourhoods of Mariposa and La Cruz are the most affected areas and it has been said that at least 850 hectares of vegetation have been destroyed.

‘Everyone is pitching in’

‘We’ve conducted assessments, both visiting the affected areas doing needs surveys and also meetings with officals from local-, regional- and national level. My team mate Adam Branson said he was impressed to see how soon after the disaster the communities have started to clear land and start the process of building temporary houses. Every one is pitching in. We have therefore concluded that there is no need for ShelterBox aid for now.’