Six months after the earthquake the national newspaper El Comercio reported that there were still 7,000 people living in 24 shelters in the worst hit provinces. 3.7 million Cubic metres of debris had been removed. 9357 buildings had been demolished, with more still remaining to be torn down. Unicef reported that they continued to supply aid which allowed thousands of children to attend temporary schools in marquees. They also pointed out the continuing needs of people living in unofficial shelters and rural areas.
Our personal experience in El Carmen highlights the plight of people who have no land of their own and who are in unofficial shelters. Many small charities like ourselves, as well as larger ones and government agencies have rehoused people. However, those who have no land, and are not in official camps are not being helped. They continue to live in tents, share communal toilets and lack access to safe drinking water. We are in the process of building 3 more houses for families living in temporary shacks, who do have land on which to build, but who are not receiving government aid.
Rebuilding is taking place, but there is still a long way to go in towns such as Perdenales, which was almost completely destroyed in the quake.
On the 19th December we were woken in the night by another earthquake, this time only 5.7 in strength, which again hit the coast. This time 3 people died, 62 were injured and many buildings, already weakened by previous quakes, were damaged causing millions of dollars’ worth of damage.
The economy continues to be hit by the ongoing impact of the earthquake. Taxes were increased (VAT and income tax) to pay for repairs. Some lost their businesses and homes. This means people are unable to repay loans and have less money to spend in general. There are other factors in play in the downturn in the economy, but, in general, the cost of living continues to rise, while unemployment rises and sales fall.
In October, the government said it had allocated all the resources generated by the Solidarity Law: $1.5 billion to date.
The psychological effects continue too. We continue to feel small tremors from time to time. Everyone is jittery about them. Those who were at the epi-centre of the first one are reduced to tears. Posts immediately appear on social media, “Did you feel that one?” My 6 year old is only just beginning to stop being worried by the windows rattling in the wind. I can only imagine how children who had buildings collapse on them are still feeling.
Despite the huge challenges still to be overcome, a lot of progress has been made. People are resilient. Life continues. Grief remains. Day follows day. Parents continue to fight to feed and house their families.