Quake, tsunami damage Chile's fishing port

This week's earthquake and following tsunami have caused great damage to Chile's most important port city.

At 8:49 p.m. on 1 April an earthquake measuring 8.2 on the Richter scale struck off the coast of northern Chile, near the regions of Tarapacá, Arica and Parinacota. The whole coast was evacuated because of an imminent tsunami that struck the ports in the north a few minutes after the first quake. The following night, a 7.6-magnitude aftershock hit the same area and forced the population to evacuate.

The artisanal fishermen of the port city of Iquique were hit the hardest. According to Iquique fishermen union leader Juan Cáceres, more than 70 percent of the boats in the docks were severely damaged and most of them cannot be fixed since the engines were lost during the relatively small tsunami. He stated that "the only elements that were saved were fishing nets; the boats in this area are made of wood so the damage is big." He declared that the artisanal finishing industry is paralyzed.

According to Alberto Olivares, the union leader of the seafood-searching scuba divers, the majority of their boats have been lost. More than 200 people have lost their source of income.

According to President Michelle Bachelet, the government is trying to help the fishermen get back on track. "We expect through the Fishing Development Institute and the Fisheries Management Fund to support the fishermen in order to recover their boats and businesses," she said.

The Undersecretary of Fishing, Raúl Súnico, said that it will take the city five or six months to recover from the damage caused by the tsunami.

Geologist Carmen Castro said that fishermen should stay away from the coast and ocean for a while because the state of the sea will remain unsteady for the next few days.

Iquique is the most important port of Chile and is responsible for 35 percent of the country's catch. Their main seafood resources are mackerel and anchovies.


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