Melissa recently wrote a more objective point of view about the devastation left behind by the Chaitén volcano. More simply and more personally, all of us agree that this is one of the most devastating things we have ever witnessed firsthand. Just looking at photos or the video we will have up soon can only paint a small picture to the feeling that comes over you when entering a town that has been abandoned for all practical purposes. While residents are slowly returning to the town, it is hard to see any future in sight for this place and, for us, the fear of temporarily parking our trucks on streets that have the foundation washed out from underneath them can only mean that the citizens must feel even more afraid of returning permanently without the basic necessities like water and electricity.
Upon talking to the police that guard the town from looters that come to steal the little that was left behind by the volcano’s power, we found that they are only allowed to guard the town in two week shifts out of fear that the toxic ash will permanently damage their lungs. Right now the season is providing a lot of rain, so the ash is very hard to move as it is thick like wet concrete, but when the rain stops, the ash will dry and pollute the air making it toxic to even breathe.
There is no FEMA here and the citizens don’t have the systems in place to quickly recover from this kind of devastation. It seems so trivial to think about how much we all complained about hurricane Katrina and the management of that disaster, however, for us a recovery plan was in the works as soon as the disaster happened (as poor as we all might believe it was…at least there was one). People returned to New Orleans soon after the disaster, but six months later, not even electricity has returned here. As I said in a previous blog, if there is one way you can help these people and any area that relies on tourism for its livelihood, don’t let disasters scare you away. All of the people here need tourism to resume quickly or they will have no reason to return to their homes. Although it may not be the place it was before, a trip here can teach you a lot and certainly give you an opportunity lend a hand repairing the damage that has been done. It is a much more rewarding experience than a simple trip to the beach drinking Mai Tai’s, and the best part is, this area is still able to provide diversions from the disaster…the rafting season in nearby Futaleufú has already begun and is world renowned.
[flickr album=72157607967421158 num=29 size=Square]