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Chile's earthquake: six months on

UNICEF and partners still working to counter the effects of February's 8.8-magnitude quake

TALCAHUANO, Chile, 27 August 2010 – Jessica, 12, used to live in Santa Clara, a neighbourhood in Chile’s coastal city of Talcahuano. But her home was destroyed during a massive earthquake six months ago and her family was subsequently displaced.

VIDEO: UNICEF correspondent Eduardo Cure reports on UNICEF's work helping the children of Chile recover from February's devastating earthquake.


On 27 February 2010, an 8.8.-magnitude earthquake shook central Chile for nearly three full minutes. A powerful tsunami followed, wiping out entire neighbourhoods  and affecting some two million people – more than 10 per cent of the country’s population.

Massive destruction

The quake was the second-strongest ever to hit Chile and one of the 10 strongest in recorded world history. A large number of cities in the coastal regions of Maule and Biobío were completely destroyed. The day after the disaster, official sources estimated that more than half a million homes were destroyed and countless thousands damaged.

© UNICEF Chile/2010
Jessica, 12, points to where her house used to sit in Talcahuano, a city on the Chilean coast.

Eyewitnesses reported tsunami waves up to ten metres high.

Today the only things that remain of Jessica’s home are the floor tiles.  Like many others who lost their homes, Jessica and her family relocated to higher ground. They now live in a ‘mediagua,’ or a shack made of wood that offers families shelter during emergencies.

Learning to adapt

In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, UNICEF and its partners worked with the Chilean Government to help meet the basic needs of children and families. It has launched a public education campaign to help protect children who are suffering from the trauma of the earthquake, and will help train some 3,000 child-care professionals and educators to work with children experiencing post-disaster stress.

© UNICEF Chile/2010
Jessica (left), 12, stands with her teacher, Maria Eugenia Lara, at the site of of the devastated Santa Clara neighbourhood of Talcahuano, Chile.

In spite of the devastation, life goes on in Talcahuano. Safe schools have re-opened to accommodate students who, like Jessica, who were displaced from their own classrooms.

And even though Jessica has had to change schools, she remains a top student.

“I’m starting to adapt to the place I live now,” she said.



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