Earthquake In Chile: An Update

Host Scott Simon gives an update on Saturday's 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck Chile.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. An 8.8 magnitude earthquake has struck Chile early today. The quake was centered near Concepcion, which is about 200 miles from the capitol city of Santiago. Ghotai Ghazialam is the disaster management delegate for the International Red Cross. She joins us from Panama City, Panama. Thanks very much for being with us.

Ms. GHOTAI GHAZIALAM (International Red Cross): Thank you.

SIMON: And tell us what you're hearing. I understand you're dispatching teams to Chile from your post in Panama. What can you tell us what's going on the ground happening on the ground there?

Ms. GHAZIALAM: We've been working since the earthquake started and struck (unintelligible). The two regions that have been affected are Bio-Bio and Maule. The area that has been affected has mud houses, which makes it more vulnerable to the situation. The communication is limited. It took us a while to get communicated in Santiago, Chile, so there is a team of the government that is going there from the emergency going around the affected area to look at the situation more from up in the air.

SIMON: And what do you need to get in there immediately, Ms. Ghazialam?

Ms. GHAZIALAM: We need to get search and rescue attachment. We need to do that. That's the first immediate need. We are close contact with the national society to see if we can, because they have to call for the international help in order for us to move in to bring those team in. And then the airport is closed. We have to look at alternatives of how to get in.

SIMON: And what are those alternatives if you can't fly in aid?

Ms. GHAZIALAM: We are looking at the border of Argentina and Chile to see if we can go that way. We have already looked into that option. Maybe other airports close by and drive in.

SIMON: And let me understand this. Are there Red Cross people on the ground now anywhere near the area?

Ms. GHAZIALAM: Yes. The Red Cross National Society is working there, and they are in contact with the government in the coordination part of that. And they are - they will determine whether we will go in or not. But the national - the federation - in Chile, we don't have anybody.

SIMON: And I think a lot of people listening this morning are going to be most affected by when you say a lot of the houses in the area to the best of your knowledge are mud houses. These are houses that are not reinforced against earthquakes. And the people inside could be especially vulnerable.

Ms. GHAZIALAM: Exactly. That's the concern we have for the region. And there has been a tsunami alert even in Panama. For the...

SIMON: A tsunami alert in Panama, too.

Ms. GHAZIALAM: ...Pacific Coast.

SIMON: Yeah. We, of course, have been following also the tsunami alert that's in Hawaii. So the Red Cross could be called into several theaters of operations within the next few hours I guess.

Ms. GHAZIALAM: Yes, that's the possibility. So they're taking the measurements to evacuate places. There was the Juan Fernandez Island close to the affected area has already got the wave. So we could get continuous updates on how the waves are going as well.

SIMON: Ghotai Ghazialam of the International Red Cross joining us from Panama City.

Thank you.

Ms. GHAZIALAM: Thank you.

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