A ShelterBox response team this week arrived in Chile, where the people are facing the aftermath of two separate natural disasters that have left entire communities without homes and shelter from some of the most unpredictable displays of nature the South American nation has ever seen.
In the Atacama region, a usually arid area, intense rainfall has led to rivers bursting their banks, flash flooding and landslides. The floods not only damaged infrastructure, they have left more than 8,000 families with either damaged or 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, 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 because of concerns that it not only could cause a great deal of destruction, but could collapse itself, which would cause 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, explained 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 April 22, people started returning to their ash-covered homes only to experience two further eruptions.”
The ShelterBox team, made up of John Cordell and Kevin Monforte of the United States and Scott Culbertson of Canada, is working with 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.