Saturday morning, I awoke at 6:13 am to the sound of my blackberry telling me I had a new message. Half-asleep, I reached to pull the cursed device off my bookshelf. It took me a few seconds to realize the enormity of the six words on the screen:
Huge 8.8-magnitude earthquake hits Chile
Then the names and faces of all of our Patagonia BioGem campaign partners in Chile raced through my mind as I jumped out of bed to turn on the TV. Images of the devastation in Concepción and Santiago kept flashing across the screen, as newscasters related the few available details:
- At 3:34 am local time (1:34am EST), a massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck just off the coast of Concepción, Chile’s second largest city which is approximately 200 miles south of the capital, Santiago.
- The number of casualties was still under 100, but expected to rise drastically during the next few hours.
- This was the 5th largest earthquake in recorded history, and it released 500 times more energy (according to CNN) than last month’s quake in Haiti.
I spent the rest of the day—and weekend—trying to get in touch with NRDC’s Chilean partners and friends. Very, very fortunately, all of them are accounted for, safe and healthy.
Now, almost three days after the earthquake hit, we have a lot more information. We know over 720 people have died, and that authorities expect this number to continue to rise. We know approximately 2 million people have been displaced by the earthquake. We know the main electric grid, called the SIC (Sistema Interconectado Central), blacked out when the quake hit, leaving over 90% of the country’s population without electricity for days. And we know many people are without food and water—which has led to some of the looting we also know is, sadly, occurring.
The true extent of the damage is still unknown, partly because authorities still can’t reach many areas affected by the quake. And partly because aftershocks and tsuanmis caused additional destruction.
Yet, we also know that assistance is already arriving. Today, President Bachelet officially opened the doors for foreign aid, and a number of groups have responded. And, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will visit Chile tomorrow. If you wish to contribute to the relief efforts, the following international organizations are actively engaged in work on the ground:
- Habitat for Humanity
- American Red Cross
- Doctors without Borders
- Direct Relief International
- Stanford Students and Alumni for Chile
- Save the Waves
- Un Techo Para Chile
- Hogar de Cristo
- Solar Can Help
Finally, thank you to our campaign’s many supporters and friends for all of their concern and support. We, and surely our Chilean partners, appreciate your thoughts.