One bottle of water for five days

Major Fernando Martinez shares experiences in Chile post-earthquake.

by Luis Uribe –

Devastation is seen following the recent earthquake in Chile. [Photo by Marcelo Marin]

Arriving in Chile with his family, Major Fernando Martinez, Miami area commander in the U.S. Southern Territory, was appalled by the devastation that greeted him. The trip soon became one of the most difficult experiences of his life. He traveled to the capital city of Santiago to work with other Salvationists to help affected families.

“You cannot imagine the real dimension of the tragedy if you have not been there,” Martinez said. “The media has done good coverage, but it is different when you stay there and live without the necessities.”

Lack of essentials
Santiago has a population of approximately 6 million people; nearly 20 percent were seriously affected.

“We are speaking of 1.2 million people. The damage was bigger in smaller cities,” he said.

Immediately after the disaster, The Salvation Army responded with food, blankets and medicines. However, more than a month later the Chilean people are still suffering.

“There is no water…the Salvationists reserved an extra two-liter bottle of water just for me!” Martinez said, emphasizing the sacrifice of this gesture. “So I had two liters of water to drink, wash myself…to clean and maintain me for five days!”

Army facilities affected
“The corps are broken, destroyed…It will be years before we can have new facilities or at least repair the damaged ones.

“It is not like in the U.S. where you remove the old and install something new. It is different. We are a developing country, and we do not have enough resources,” Martinez said.

According to Martinez, “It is estimated that the country’s overall repairs will cost nearly $30 billion.” At the end of 2009, the external debt of Chile was $60.9 billion—clearly Chile will need assistance to sustain long-term recovery efforts.

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