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Chile earthquake: Aftermath

People walk in a damaged area of Curanipe, some 389 km., about 241 miles, southwest Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A magnitude-8.8 earthquake struck central Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
People walk in a damaged area of Curanipe, some 389 km., about 241 miles, southwest Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A magnitude-8.8 earthquake struck central Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia) (Roberto Candia - AP)

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Apu Patel
Red Cross Earthquake Response Team
Monday, March 1, 2010; 1:00 PM

After experiencing one of the most powerful earthquakes to strike the earth in more than a century, Chileans accelerated their rescue, aid and security efforts in damaged regions Sunday but also took pride in the comparatively low death toll, a result widely attributed to the country's meticulous planning and preparation.

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Apu Patel, who is leading the Chilean earthquake response for the American Red Cross, was online Monday, March 1, at 1 p.m. ET to discuss the latest news in the disaster zone.

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Apu Patel: Hi this is Apu Patel with the American Red Cross International Response Team here in Washington DC here to talk about the Chile Earthquake

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Washington, D.C.: Are you accepting volunteers?

Apu Patel: no. at this time we are relying on the Chilean Red Cross network of volunteers to provide immediate assistance

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Upper Marlboro, Md.: I noticed that the Red Cross is not using the 90999 text number for aid to Chile. Will there be a new number? This is a quick, no-brainer for those who would not normally give. Thanks for all you do.

Apu Patel: At this time, the American Red Cross has not activated a mobile fundraising campaign for Chile relief.

The American Red Cross is monitoring the situation in Chile and has pledged an initial $50,000 from its International Response Fund to assist communities impacted by Saturday's earthquake in Chile. We are prepared to take further action as local responders assess the situation.

You can make a contribution to our International Response Fund right now to provide immediate relief and long-term support to victims of countless crises around the world each year, like the earthquake in Chile by visiting redcross.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish).

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Miami, Fla.: How is the response to the earthquake in Chile vs. the earthquake in Haiti going to differ for the AMERICAN Red Cross, in terms of dollars and resources committed.

Apu Patel: The earthquakes in Chile and Haiti have both been very destructive, however, they are very different disasters. Unlike, Chile, the Haitian government was not capable of addressing the needs of the affected. Chile has a much stronger support structure.

We are currently working with the Chilean Red Cross and our Red Cross network partners to provide immediate assistance and to carry out assessments.

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Los Angeles, Calif.: Have you seen any progress on organizing Mass Care and Sheltering functions as of yet? If so, how has this developed thus far?

Apu Patel: The Chilean Government and the Chilean Red Cross are currently conducting assessments to determine the critical needs. It has been difficult to get into the affected areas as infrastructure and communications are severely damaged. Currently, Chilean Red Cross is providing for limited search and rescue and are distributing some basic supplies such as water.

We know critical needs include emergency health, water and sanitation, communications and shelter.

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Washington, D.C.: How does the Red Cross coordinate its efforts when dealing with a disaster of this magnitude?

Also with all the current focus on Haiti, is the Red Cross able to respond to it's fullest capacity?

Apu Patel: The Red Cross coordinates its international response efforts through the global Red Cross and Crescent Network. The Latin American Region has a response unit in Panama that is taking the lead in coordinating efforts with the Chilean Red Cross. The Red Cross network has years of experience in responding to disasters and although it is unique to have two such devastating disasters so closely spaced, the Red Cross network is able to respond to both events.

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Anonymous: Is the major highway between Santiago and Valparaiso opened, and if not do you think it will be opened in a week?

Is there water, sanitation, and ways to get to the airport in Santiago into the heart of town?

Are the subways running?

Is the Precolombian Indian Museum opened or will it be next week based on its present state.

Apu Patel: I cannot answer all of this, but we have heard that the subway in Santiago has been opened and that the airport is operating on a limited basis.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi Apu, Unlike Haiti, there has not been an immediate request for funds or assistance -- for those of us who want to help, where can we direct our resources?

Apu Patel: The American Red Cross has initially made $50,000 from its International Response Fund available to assist communities impacted by the earthquake. We are prepared to take further action as determined by the ongoing assessments of needs. You can make a contribution to our International Response Fund right now to provide immediate relief and long-term support to victims of countless crises around the world each year, like the earthquake in Chile by visiting redcross.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS or 1-800-257-7575 (Spanish).

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Flagstaff, Ariz.: I already had a trip planned to Chile arriving on March 13. What items would be best to collect and bring with me at that point in the recovery effort, and could I drop them with the Red Cross in Santiago?

Apu Patel: I would encourage you to not bring anything with you. The Red Cross mobilizes and pre-positions relief stocks around the world. Further, it is best, when possible, to procure items locally to provide for the needs of the affected.

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Chicago, Ill.: Now that the government of Chile has formally requested international assistance, will the American Red Cross be sending a relief team to Chile?

Apu Patel: The American Red Cross is coordinating with the global Red Cross network in providing support to operations in Chile and the Chilean Red Cross. A team of relief specialists from the Red Cross' Panama disaster coordination unit is en route to Chile now. They will assist the Chilean Red Cross with relief activities, planning, and assessments.

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Natural disasters: In response to natural disasters around the world, U.S. citizens and private charities seem to respond. But how best do private citizens respond? Money to charities? Clothing drives? How do I know that my paltry few dollars will actually get to relief efforts? How best can I be poised to help in future relief efforts? I know some charities are not honest. How do I know the difference?

Apu Patel: You should do research before donating to any charity. Groups like the American Red Cross are monitored by charity monitoring groups. The best way people can support disaster response efforts is by giving money to reputable organizations. If the organization has a good track record, you can be assured they will be transparent about how your resources will be used.

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Germantown, Md.: Do you know what's the access back and forth to neighbor countries like? Are main terrestrial routes to Argentina open?

Apu Patel: Immediately after the disaster, the borders to neighboring countries were closed, but the latest information seems to indicate that limited movement across borders is possible.

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Immediately after the disaster, the borders to neighboring countries were closed: Why?

Apu Patel: I am not sure of the reason.

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Fairfax, Va.: An article I read this morning mentioned that the people of Chile are pretty much always earthquake-aware, since so many have struck there. Is this true?

Apu Patel: I believe this is very true. Chile has been affected by earthquakes in the past and this has led the people and the government to be better prepared. For instance, there are strict construction standards for buildings in Chile.

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Waco, Tex.: Are the structures just much sounder in Chile as opposed to Haiti? Is that why there were much fewer deaths there?

Apu Patel: I do think that many of the structures in Chile were of a sounder structure. However, as more information comes in from people conducting assessments and carrying out search and rescue activities, there will be a more accurate sense of the impact.

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