Chile: Frustration Grows Over Slow Quake Recovery Six months after a devastating earthquake and tsunami hit southern Chile, many survivors are still homeless, and some towns and villages remain rubble-filled. With so many living in temporary camps, the speed of the government's recovery efforts has become the subject of controversy.
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Chile: Frustration Grows Over Slow Quake Recovery

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Chile: Frustration Grows Over Slow Quake Recovery

Chile: Frustration Grows Over Slow Quake Recovery

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And now we turn to another country that's still recovering from a natural disaster. The world has been watching northern Chile lately where 33 miners are trapped underground. Six months ago, eyes were on southern Chile, where a huge earthquake killed more than 500 people. Homes and businesses were destroyed. A tsunami pounded the coast, wiping out entire villages. Now, some are saying government recovery efforts have not been swift enough. Annie Murphy reports.

ANNIE MURPHY: The city of Concepcion was one of the hardest hit by Februarys earthquake, and it doesnt look much different than it did six months ago. Many streets are still littered with debris. One high-rise apartment building still lies toppled on its side, another still stands, but just barely - the top third crushed like a cake.

But at least services like light and water are back and many people have returned to their homes. That isnt the case in the nearby fishing village of Dichato

(Soundbite of vehicles)

MURPHY: After the quake hit, the sea receded and local residents made a run for the hills, because when the sea returned it buried the town under a wall of water, and nearly leveled the area by the shore. Now, all that remains are the cement skeletons of a few buildings and a lot of rubble.

But fisherman Raul Vera still comes here every day to look at the ocean. Vera was born and raised in Dichato. Right before the quake, hed finally bought his own boat which he named the Poseidon. And hed just moved into his own house, two blocks from the water, but the tsunami swept away the house, smashed his boat in two and left Vera without a job.

Mr. RAUL VERA (Fisherman): (Spanish language spoken)

MURPHY: Nothing has gotten better. Not one improvement, he says. Theres no clean-up and right now we cant rebuild. Just a week ago the government started clearing away the rubble.

Locals have staged protests. They feel the government isnt handling the reconstruction properly. Many of them, like Raul, are living in temporary camps

MURPHY: At this camp, some students are making balloon animals for kids. Theyre in a large clearing surrounded by evergreens. Its row upon row of spare, wooden huts with metal roofs; each is approximately 10 by 20 feet. Since theres no running water or bathrooms, people here use portable toilets and take bucket baths.

(Soundbite of pouring water)

MURPHY: Twenty-four-year old Connie Bravo is filling up buckets to wash her two toddlers. She shows me around her shelter.

Ms. CONNIE BRAVO: (Spanish language spoken)

MURPHY: Theres a bed, a table, two chairs, and a stove with some cold toast sitting on one burner. Its the end of winter in the Southern Hemisphere, and its chilly and damp. Four people live here. Bravo says theyre uncomfortable but doesnt think theres much to be done.

Ms. BRAVO: (Spanish language spoken)

MURPHY: In the end, the government is the government, she says, and it just does what it can. We cant really ask for a lot.

Bravos neighbor, Eglantina Chavez, is outside trying to fix a broken washing machine.

Ms. EGLANTINA CHAVEZ: (Spanish language spoken)

MURPHY: Its infuriating that the government hasnt worried more about us here in Dichato, Chavez says. There are no psychologists or nurses for the kids -nothing. The government cant just leave us here, tossed aside.

Government officials, however, say theyre doing all they can. Sergio Baeriswyl is a government planner whos overseeing coastal reconstruction in this region.

Mr. SERGIO BAERISWYL (Urban Planner): (Spanish language spoken)

MURPHY: Of course these complaints have some legitimacy, he says, because these people are living in extreme conditions. But people are gradually getting behind the dream we have for rebuilding. And, he adds, their houses should all be under construction by the middle of next year.

(Soundbite of sawing)

MURPHY: Sixty-six year old Victor Galindo worked most of his life in a local lumberyard. And now hes cutting wood for his stove to keep him and his wife warm at night.

Mr. VICTOR GALINDO: (Spanish language spoken)

MURPHY: The government told us we could be waiting for up to three or four years here in the camp, he says. At my age, I wonder if Ill even live to see my new house.

For NPR News, this is Annie Murphy in Concepcion, Chile.

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