The Chilean Earthquake: A disaster of personal proportions

Tsunami Caused by Chilean Earthquake

Photo by Carolina Inostroza/Flickr

The devastating 8.8 earthquake that struck Chile earlier this month caused untold damage, and aftershocks continue to reverberate across the country. The immediate focus was rescue and piecing together entire villages overtaken by tsunami waves. Many of you took quick action to help. But what comes next?

On the heels of such a devastating earthquake in Haiti, disaster fatigue is easy to understand. I’m susceptible to it myself. There are only so many stories I can read and hear before I want to tune out. But reading personal stories from people affected by the earthquake is moving, and makes what happened all the more real – hitting home about how important it is to help.

You can’t imagine the devastation. . .
Personal stories paint a picture we don’t often see on the news.

“We keep getting big aftershocks (more than 120 of them over 5 Richter) – we had one an hour ago and I’m on the 5th floor of an office building,” wrote Sharon Matthews, cousin of JustGive Founder Kendall Webb in an email.

“We have been so fortunate – all of our extended family is unharmed, although there were some close calls. Fernando’s daughter was in a brick house that collapsed entirely, and his son and (his son’s) pregnant wife were at a surfing zone that was hit with a tsunami….You can’t imagine the devastation it covers such a large geographic area. More than half a million people have lost their homes (and most lost all their personal possessions). In lots of coastal towns, what the earthquake didn’t destroy, the tsunami swept away.”

Another supporter of JustGive, Agustin F. Huneeus, Proprietor of Quintessa Wines, has family in Chile and experienced the earthquake wrote:

“The earthquake was more intense than one can imagine. A full 90 seconds of violent shaking that seemed to last forever was followed by dozens and dozens of aftershocks, some almost as intense as the first shock. For those of us that have experienced earthquakes, this one was unique—it apparently started to shake very hard immediately and without warning, jolting people out of bed disoriented and in shock. The quake was…so strong it was even hard to walk. Just imagine waking up to this, walking to your family to try and get them out of your house or apartment to safety.”

Families and livelihoods affected by destruction
Disaster is a terribly personal affair that brings together countries – and the world. The relatively small death toll from the Chile quake – approximately 500 – can obscure the massive need that exists for families. As new government officials enters office, they find a country in desperate need of emergency temporary housing to help an estimated 500,000 people whose homes were severely damaged, and whose livelihoods will be affected for years to come.

Chile’s wine industry, one of the world’s most popular, endured hundreds of millions of dollars in damage from overturned 15 foot high wine vats and stored barrels, damaged facilities, and disrupted grape growth. As Huneeus wrote:

“Veramonte suffered damages, including some buckled tanks, toppled barrels, glass and pallets of wine,” Huneeus wrote, “but overall, it was not serious and we actually feel fortunate. The wine industry as a whole, however, has suffered quite a bit of damage and has lost a large amount of wine.”

Chilean Barrels of Wine Toppled by Earthquake

Photo by Rodrigo Gomez/Flickr

About 70 percent of Chilean production takes place in areas badly affected by the quake. The damage threatens the entire 2010 harvest and exports, which will have a ripple effect on all those Chileans working in the wine industry – some 80,000 individuals. An article in USA Today details the impact.

We can all help
Chilean families need to rebuild to recover. It’s not too late to help. Individuals like Agustin Huneeus are mobilizing resources:

“In the US, we are quickly establishing programs, promotions and partnerships with retailers and other wineries from Chile to help send aid to the millions of people left hurt and homeless by this horrible disaster. For now, you can all help by supporting wines from Chile, and making contributions to organizations that are on the ground helping those in need in Chile.”

Through JustGive, you can donate now to organizations helping the country. Be sure to designate your gift to the “Chile Earthquake.” For more detail on charities working in Chile, see our last Chile blog.

Tell a friend and make a difference today!

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