July 5 – Chile – Quake Survivors still Struggling

[Video – NTDTV] Chile Quake Survivors Still Struggling –

[Emilio  Gutierrez, Local Resident]:  
“I can’t find my son. He’s four years old. I found my father but I can’t find my son. For a father, it’s very painful to lose a son and also a father. I lost both of them. I’ve been looking for my son for three months”

Fr. Scott

Comment: A tragic reality for sure, the loss of a son and the superimposed lack of a body to identify and then bury. The sense of “incompleteness” must be devastating….no closure.

The video illustrates the effects of the disaster on Constitucion, Chile well.  I was at the pictured disaster site in Constitucion during a recent visit to Chile. Marco Iazzolino and I were in the country to help with the CTF-SOS DRS earthquake relief project in Parral and Cauquenes. 

The devastation in Constitution reminded me of what I saw in Indonesia in 2005 after the Tsunami hit Banda Aceh. I met many who were separated from their loved ones by the disaster and were never able to find their bodies – no closure.

Another reason people are not able to reach closure in disasters is because  they develop feelings of dissatisfaction, anger, frustration, and mistrust – amongst others – when those in authority do not provide an adequate response to the disaster. They either do not address the needs of the people affected in a timely manner or at all. I saw this type of lack of closure in Indonesia. And I have witnessed it in Chile and Haiti as well. 

More than once during my visit to Santiago, Parral and Cauquenes in Chile I heard that the national government had underreported the strength of the February 27 earthquake in order to avoid having to comply with the international legal requirements regarding the provision of benefits for the Chilean people. Similarly, the authorities did not ask for enough international aid because they did not want to look like a country that needs help, i.e. a developing nation. 

While I cannot cite sources and do not know that both of these points are in fact true, I do know that in Cauquenes and Parral the government was very slow to help the hospitals there. That is why CTF-SOS DRS together with Misericordiae decided to provide modules for hospital beds to help the sick and the elderly in light of the oncoming winter.

The reasons why governments are often slow in responding to disasters and helping people adequately are myriad. Sure, man-made and natural calamities produce complex realities. But unfortunately they also produce opportunities for corruption, greed, opportunism, and the misuse of power.

Disasters are a clarion call to each of us to reach out to our neighbor and to help him. God knows we may need help ourselves someday after a disaster. These tragedies also bring out both what is best and worst in man. They reveal that gulf between charity and use, that distance between man showing love and compassion towards his neighbor on the one hand and using him as a means to an end on the other. That, unfortunately, will continue to be our lot in this world infected by both original and actual sin – in disasters and otherwise – until we reach closure, final closure that is. God help us.


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