Earthquake: One week on

August 23rd, 2007

One week after the magnitude-8 earthquake that struck the Ica region, 25 miles off the coast of Chincha and Pisco, current reports have 513 down as killed, 1090 injured with 37,521 homes destroyed. With lots more rubble to clear and some Andean towns still to be visited, these numbers will almost certainly increase.

Now in Lima, President Alan Garcia states that 95% of the victims of the earthquake have received help, admitting that some distant areas have yet to. Despite his assurances, many in the area remain angry, explaining that despite not being far from the main centres of population help has not arrived and that those injured and hungry cannot walk tens of kilometres to stand in queues to receive food in Pisco. Some say that supplies are sitting in the regions airports and airbases, yet to be distributed due to poor organisation.

Rescuers are also criticising the Government’s response to the disaster. Spanish rescuers recently left the country saying that the Government refused to provide them with any protection. The dog handling group K9 de Creixell who were searching for survivors and bodies, after surviving a shootout involving desperate crowds quoted the President as saying, “whoever is afraid can leave Peru”. They also affirm that the distribution of aid has been disastrously mismanaged. “Peru has received a lot of aid from Japan, European countries and Latin America, but Peruvian authorities are not distributing the products to those in need, they just distribute some of the provisions in the centre of Pisco (city) and store the rest in military airports. We didn’t see the amount of supplies we unloaded from the planes
distributed to the people. We want to know where that food goes and who
distributes it,” they stated.

Another group of rescuers, Mexico’s elite Los Topos rescue team, have also criticised efforts. They say they haven’t been permitted to do any work. A veteran team member of 22 years, Edmundo Delgado, complained, “Our arms are folded, they won’t let us work, it is very sad”. Peru’s fire department commander, Alberto Marticorena, calls the Mexican specialists reckless and accuses them of not following basic safety practices. Of the Peruvian fire-fighters, Los Topos say, “they don’t know anything about rescue, and that’s how they drive away those that come to help.”

Arriving in Pisco these past two days, people from remote villages in the region of Huancavelica are asking when the first signs of help will arrive. With their homes destroyed and no food or water, these people are requesting that the Government send some kind of aid. The tired earthquake victims, after days of walking, report that there is as much destruction where they are from as in Pisco.

Elsewhere in Pisco, prefabricated houses and schools have been and are still being put together. 60 homes will have been erected by the end of the week. 500 prefabricated houses will be sent in total.

In Lima a civil defence worker and separately a driver working for the civil defence have been found to have hundreds of bags of relief aid stored in their homes. María Rosas García, the civil defence worker for the Municipality of La Victoria was found with 76 bags with 150 kilos of clothes and food, along with 1,000 litres of water donated by the people of La Victoria. She, arrested with 5 accomplices, states that she was receiving donations at her home and was transporting items little by little to the main collection centre. Héctor Roca Morales, a driver for the regional government of Callao, was caught with many supplies that had been donated for earthquakes victims. If found guilty of stealing the aid the perpetrators can receive as much as 8 years in prison.

There was more controversy in the aftermath of the earthquake involving Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez when he and Peru’s opposition nationalist leader Ollanta Humala decided to take advantage of the disaster to win political points. Humala’s party were found in Pisco by-passing relief organisers and handing out their own canned food items – but with the original labeling replaced with one with photos of Humala and Chavez with the nationalist leaders party symbol.

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