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Red Cross Revises Chilean Emergency Appeal Upwards

Red Cross spokeswoman says a lot done to restore electricity, water to cities, but says many necessities still lacking in rural areas

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies is issuing a revised emergency appeal for nearly $13 million to assist tens of thousands of survivors of Chile's devastating earthquake until the end of the year. A Red Cross Official in Chile tells VOA the agency has to scale up its relief operations to meet the increasing needs of people who have been left homeless and traumatized by the disaster.

The weather in the Chilean capital, Santiago is sunny and beautiful, but that will soon change as the rainy season approaches. Spokeswoman for the International Red Cross Federation, Marie-Francoise Borel, says the rains will cause enormous hardships for tens of thousands of earthquake survivors whose homes have been destroyed.

In a telephone interview from Santiago, Borel tells VOA she flew over the heavily affected Nauli Region and was stunned at the extent of the damage caused to homes and infrastructure.

She says the government has done a lot in restoring electricity and water supplies to the cities. But, she says many of these necessities are still lacking in the rural areas she visited. She says people there need water and sanitation and, above all, shelter.

"They need a roof over their heads," she said. "The rainy season is coming. Winter is just around the corner and we have to try and make sure that these people who have been left homeless - and there are tens of thousands of families who have been left homeless - have something over their heads."

Borel says many people are living in tents. Others are staying with family and friends. She says wooden transitional shelters, which are more solid than tents, will have to be built to withstand the rains.

She notes health care is another priority.

"In many cities, the hospitals have been either destroyed or badly damaged and we need to make sure that people continue to have access to health care," she added. "And this is not just, of course, trauma related to the earthquake. That has been well taken care of now. But, we have to make sure that people have normal access to health care for normal ailments."

In addition, Red Cross spokeswoman Borel says vital psychological support is needed to help people traumatized by the loss of loved ones, of homes and livelihoods.

The Chilean Red Cross has some 2,500 active volunteers working in the country. Borel says since the earthquake, there have been 30,000 new requests to become Red Cross volunteers.

She says money from the appeal will be used to strengthen the Chilean Red Cross and to train the new recruits, so they will be even better prepared to respond to disasters in the future.