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MEMO/10/72

Brussels, 9 March 2010

Visit of Commissioner Georgieva to Chile

Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva will travel to Chile today to visit areas affected by the recent earthquake and follow the work of European humanitarian and civil protection experts on the ground. She will also represent the European Commission at the Chilean Presidential Hand-over that will take in Valparaiso on 11 March.

Commissioner Georgieva will arrive in Santiago on Wednesday 10 March, and in the morning of the same day, will visit the area affected by the earthquake of 27 February, including the coastal areas of Constitución, Talca and Concepción. During her visit to the field, she will meet representatives of ECHO partners working in the area, and will visit the MIC (Monitoring and Information Centre) base camp in Penco 1 . She will also have bilateral contacts with Chilean authorities of the region.

On 11 March, the Commissioner will travel to Valparaiso. Although Santiago is Chile's official capital, Valparaiso houses the National Congress, where the ceremony of Presidential Hand-over will take place. Commissioner Georgieva will return to Brussels on the afternoon of the 11 th .

Video and photograph images of the visit of Commissioner Georgieva will be available on EBS on the morning of 11 March. The spokesman of Mrs Georgieva, Ferran Tarradellas will be reachable on his mobile phone at +32 498 96 62 93, during the visit (please take into consideration that there is a time difference of 4 hours).

As she did during her trip to Haiti, Commissioner Georgieva intends to publish a travel diary in her blog. http://blogs.ec.europa.eu/georgieva/

Background

As soon as news of the Chile earthquake broke, in the early morning of Saturday 27 February, ECHO's emergency response system was mobilised. ECHO is the Commission department, under the authority of Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, responsible for humanitarian aid and civil protection.

The EU Civil Protection Mechanism immediately issued a pre-alert message to the Participating States. The crisis room of the Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) operated throughout the weekend, obtaining reports about the scale and impact of the earthquake and identifying civil protection assets that could be available for rapid deployment (the Mechanism was formally activated on 1 March, following the request for international assistance from the Chilean President). Commissioner Georgieva went to the crisis room during the day to direct operations.

The Commission's emergency humanitarian response system was launched simultaneously in Brussels and in ECHO's Managua regional office, covering Latin America. Potential partners for fast-track funding, with the capacity to provide immediate relief assistance, were contacted and ECHO field experts were mobilised to travel to the earthquake zone at the first available opportunity. A €3 million primary emergency decision was adopted early on Sunday morning.

The first team of two humanitarian aid experts arrived in Chile on the morning of Monday 1 March to carry out needs assessments and to meet with the authorities and potential implementing partners. A second two-member team arrived the following day.

An EU Civil Protection Mechanism team of six experts is also now in Chile: four are working in the earthquake zone near Concepcion while two are currently based in Santiago to liaise with authorities and coordinate the response of EU Member States.

Needs

Initial assessments in some of the worst-affected areas around Talca (Maule region) and along the coast, where the tsunami struck, revealed a range of needs. Re-establishing telecommunications was a key priority. In Talca, more than 2,600 people were accommodated in provisional collective centres and a number of hospitals were damaged beyond repair. In coastal locations, a lack of drinking water was a major concern.

More generally, the MIC was informed by the Chilean authorities of the following key needs:

- mechanical bridges;

- field hospitals with surgical capacity;

- satellite telephones and relay stations;

- generators;

- water purification systems (for salty water);

- shelter;

- independently operational self-dialysis units, and;

- field kitchens.

T hrough its fast-track €3m funding decision,the Commission has now concluded humanitarian financing agreements with four partner agencies: Telecoms Sans Frontières (TSF – France) to provide emergency telecommunications services; the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the Spanish Red Cross to help re-establish health services; and the German Red Cross to supply shelter, safe water and basic household essentials.

A number of EU Member States have notified the MIC of assistance deployed or offered. This includes personnel and equipment already sent to Concepcion (Spain, Germany, France), funding pledges (Finland, UK, the Netherlands) and offers of bridges, tents, field kitchens and generators (Bulgaria, Slovakia, Sweden, Austria). MIC also has on stand-by an Advanced Medical Post with Surgery, under the Preparatory Action for EU Rapid Response Capacity. The Chilean authorities have signalled their acceptance of offers of help made by the EU member states.

For further information please check

http://ec.europa.eu/echo/index_en.htm

http://ec.europa.eu/echo/civil_protection/civil/index.htm

1 :

The Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC), operated by the European Commission in Brussels, is the operational heart of the Community Mechanism for Civil Protection. It is available on a 24/7 basis and is staffed by duty officers working on a shift basis. It gives countries access to the community civil protection platform. Any country affected by a major disaster – inside or outside the EU – can launch a request for assistance through the MIC. For more info please see http://ec.europa.eu/echo/civil_protection/civil/prote/mic.htm


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