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Red Cross Appeals for Chilean Quake Victims

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies has issued a preliminary emergency appeal for $6.4 million to support earthquake aid operations in Chile where the official death toll is now nearly 800 with about two million homeless.

Red Cross spokeswoman Marie-Francoise Borel says funds from the emergency appeal will provide 15,000 families with relief goods, tents and tarpaulins, as well as a field hospital and generators. She says water and sanitation teams, and logistics experts will provide support during the next six months.

"In these cases of earthquakes, the needs are usually for shelter for people to make sure that homeless people have something to protect them, something over their heads to protect them," said Borel. "We have to make sure that they get food, that they get clean water. Clean water is absolutely a priority to avoid any disease, any complications of water borne diseases. And, we have to make sure they have access to efficient health care."

The World Health Organization reports most of the 76 hospitals in the region are operating without major difficulty. But in the disaster zone, eight hospitals are unusable and 10 have major damage.

Borel says the earthquake and its after-shocks have caused widespread trauma among the population. "People are afraid to go back into buildings. Children are afraid. Can you imagine in a few seconds when you see your building or your house falling around you, when you see people killed-it is extremely traumatic. So, we are also thinking about psycho-social support," she said.

Borel says the Chilean Red Cross has begun helping people in distress deal with their trauma and fears.

Within four hours of the 8.8-magnitude earthquake, Red Cross officials say 120 volunteers were deployed in and around the Chilean capital, Santiago.

Borel says communications are still down in the most severely affected central and coastal areas of the country, so it is not known how many of the pool of 2,000 volunteers are working to provide relief. She says the Red Cross also has begun the process of tracing missing persons and putting them in contact with their family members.