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Visit to the Earthquake Zone

I recently paid a visit to the Earthquake zone in Chincha and Pisco. I had seen so many news reports and video footage that I thought it would be just giving a small token of support, which would be no big problem, but I wasn’t prepared for the traumatic effect it would have on me seeing it all in reality. It was so awful and so sad.
As we came within 2 Km of the city we began to see on the side of the road, piles of rubble which I later realised was from the collapsed houses in the city centre. I knew the city of Pisco from a previous visit 3 years ago, and it was almost unrecognisable. The devastation was incredible. Three buildings out of every four in the centre of Pisco were demolished; old buildings and modern steel constructed buildings alike. The front wall may be left standing but when you look through the door there is nothing inside. All that remains is the rubble. We walked along the street and looked into what was once a house and we saw a tiled floor which was once a family’s living room. People who could afford it had put up a small wooden room after the site had been cleared of rubble; others had made a shelter of plastic. The awful thing is, in all these collapsed houses and buildings hundreds of people died. Children were left without mothers or fathers or parents were left without children.
We went to see the church where more that 130 people died while attending Mass that Wednesday evening on August the 15th. The people had built an Altar in the open space left after the rubble was cleared. Kids were there attending Catechesis Classes and others were beginning to assemble for Mass as it was Sunday morning. Others were in the Main Square chatting or playing games, stalls were selling breakfast on the streets. I suddenly realised that people were getting on with there lives as best they could. I saw a banner in the main square which was in Spanish and roughly translated read Keep your area clean, In Pisco we have the moral of Peru.
We spoke with the Priest, he had set up a food Kitchen for the most needy, Caritas (similar to Trochaire) were supplying the food. I asked where all the people were living whose houses were demolished; he said many in the football stadium and others in any safe open space they could find.
As we walked to the stadium, about a mile from the centre of the city, we passed the school which had many tents from Unicef, replacing the classrooms demolished. Some people received tents from Oxfam and had erected them wherever they could find a safe space; others had erected make-shift shelter. In the stadium we saw hundreds of families living in make-shift shelters of plastic, wicker or whatever material they could find. Nearby was a row of well arranged good tents for the Army who were providing security. I could not find the 400 tents the Irish Government sent out – maybe they were in a different area?
We met a group of families who were depending on food from the government as the parents had lost their jobs because their places of work were demolished. They had not received any food for the last month. They were promised rice the day after my visit. I wonder did it come? The children hadn’t received the milk and food for their breakfast either. We went to the Market and bought milk and food for the children for breakfast for one month. It was such a small gesture but the need in the area is so great it needs international help.
Unfortunately, like all these disasters after one week it’s no longer news.
Michael Murphy

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