8 March, 2010: Secretary-General visits quake-stricken area in southern Chile
[New York | Author: Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean ]
Secretary-General BAN Ki-moon arrived Saturday morning in Concepción, a major city over 300 miles south of the Chilean capital, to see for himself the damage caused by the 27 February earthquake that devastated three large regions in the country and caused damage to ECLAC's Headquarters in Santiago.
“Words fail to describe my feelings after what I have seen. Remember that we are with you, and our hearts are with you,” he said to members of the local community as he stood by what has been called the “zero zone”. In this downtown area, a brand-new, 15-floor building collapsed on its side during the earthquake, trapping over 100 residents, of which about 40 survived and one remains disappeared.
“The United Nations stands with the Chilean people in the difficult challenge ahead of overcoming this natural disaster. I am here to extend my deepest sympathies and condolences to many people who lost their lives in this tragedy,” he told them.
The Secretary-General was accompanied by the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), Alicia Bárcena, the UN Resident Coordinator in Chile, Enrique Ganuza, and the Chilean Foreign Minister Mariano Fernández. He was received at the airport by the Regional Intendent Jaime Tohá and the military chief for the zone of catastrophe, general Guillermo Ramírez.
“I am convinced that with your bravery and strong determination, you will rise back on your feet again to build a better future,” he told earthquake victims.
On his flight back to Santiago, BAN Ki-moon flew over the coastal city of Talcahuano, whose port and naval base were severely damaged by the tsunami that followed the earthquake.
The Secretary-General arrived in Chile on Friday to meet ECLAC staff, express solidarity with the government and people of Chile and get a direct and fuller picture of the extent of destruction caused by the earthquake.
On Friday, he met with President Michelle Bachelet and announced the release of up to US$ 10 million in emergency funds for earthquake relief.
Later that evening, BAN Ki-moon participated in a ceremony at the Foundation “A Roof for Chile” for 200 young volunteers who were leaving for the southern town of Iloca to build emergency housing for earthquake victims. There, he was joined by President-elect Sebastián Piñera, with whom he held a bilateral meeting.
BAN Ki-moon later took part in the launching of a televised 24-hour telethon that hopes to raise some US$ 30 million for emergency housing for earthquake victims.