Chilean city reborn after 2010 quake and tsunami

Source:Xinhua Published: 2013-2-26 13:03:23

The 8.8-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami that hit the coast of central Chile in the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 27, 2010, has left swaths of death and destruction in the city of Constitucion, but three years on, its future looks promising.

Home to 46,000 people, where most make a living on farming, fishing and tourism, Constitucion was battered by large waves that killed some 100 residents and devastated coastal buildings.

That night, nature's force razed the traditional hotels and restaurants that hosted thousands of tourists each year. One of the 10 strongest quakes ever recorded, the jolt destroyed about 222,000 homes and caused nearly 30 billion US dollars in damage.

Most of the people killed in Constitucion were Chilean tourists on Orrego Island at the mouth of the Maule River.

The government has expropriated the island and Maule's riverside to build a buffer-zone park to avoid destruction in case of a new tsunami.

Post-quake reconstruction has also been a chance for local citizens to live better.

"The reconstruction process has been a success, because it took into account people's opinions in the selection of their new homes," Clarisa Ayala Arena, Maule Region housing director, told Xinhua.

Some 95 million US dollars were allocated for housing, out of a total reconstruction budget of 150 million dollars for the city. The rest went to the park and streets near the river that will serve as evacuation routes.


Romina Gutierrez, an 11-year-old girl whose family lost their home in the tsunami, recalled the earthquake with tears.

"I went running with my parents toward nearby hills with just the clothes on my back. Later my dad went down to check on our house and it had been washed out to sea."

Survivors of La Poza, a neighborhood at the mouth of Maule River, had to move to tent camps after their homes were completely wiped out by the tsunami.

Maria Manriquez and her daughter Alejandra, 9, were almost killed by the tsunami.

"That night we were watching TV until almost 3 a.m. and just before we went to bed, we felt the strong earthquake. We didn't know what to do, if we should stay inside the house or go out," said Manriquez.

"We were not sure if there would be a tsunami, but the fishermen told us to abandon our homes because the waves were coming ... if we had stayed home, today we would have been dead."

Sitting in her new apartment, Silvia Rojas Opazco told Xinhua, "I lost everything in the tsunami and it was just like starting over again."

"I have been living here for two months, in my new apartment, with my husband and son."

"We are much better off than before because the new apartment is bigger, and this building has solar heaters. We are happy," she said.

Three years after the disaster, Constitucion and other areas affected by the 2010 earthquake and tsunami are leaving the trauma behind and quickly getting over with the help of the local communities.

Posted in: Americas

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