A ShelterBox response team is currently en route to Chile, as the country is facing two separate natural disasters, leaving communities without homes and shelter from some of the most unpredictable displays of nature Chile has ever seen.
In the Atacama region of Chile, this usually arid area has suffered from intense rainfall, leading to rivers bursting their banks, flash flooding and landslides. The floods not only damaged infrastructure, but left more than 8,000 families with either damaged or totally destroyed homes.
More than a thousand miles away, in the state of Los Lagos, activity from the Calbuco volcano has resulted in the evacuation of 6,600 homes. The volcano erupted for the first time in 42 years on 22 April, dispersing a 10 mile high plume of ash into the air, along with other pyroclastic materials.
A 12 mile evacuation zone has been enforced around the Calbuco volcano as there are concerns that it could not only cause a great deal of destruction, but could collapse itself, causing a massive pyroclastic flow, which is a current of hot gas and rock that can travel downhill at speeds of 450 miles per hour destroying everything in its path.
Ayeaisa McIntyre, ShelterBox Operations Coordinator, explains how extraordinary these events are: ‘The response in Chile is quite unusual given that we are responding to two separate disasters at the same time. Not only is this unusual for ShelterBox, but the events themselves are historically unlikely.
‘The Atacama region, which is one of the driest places on earth, received the equivalent of seven years of rainfall in less than 24 hours. In Los Lagos, the area surrounding the Calbuco volcano, was evacuated prior to the first eruption in four decades. After the eruption on 22 April, people started returning to their ash-covered homes when two further eruptions took place on 24 and 30 April.’
The ShelterBox team, made up of John Cordell (US), Scott Culbertson (CAN) and Kevin Moforte (US), will be working with fellow aid organisation Habitat for Humanity and the Chilean Red Cross Society to provide shelter kits to 1,500 families whose homes have been destroyed or damaged by these events.
The shelter kits not only contain the materials to make waterproof temporary shelters, but to repair existing structures and to clear away rubble and debris too.
The team members and the shipment of 1,500 shelter kits are all due to arrive in the country later this week.