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Chilean Gov't Unveils Post-quake Reconstruction Measures

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The Chilean government announced its first post-quake reconstruction measures Friday to put the country back on track after the devastating February 27 earthquake and the following tsunami.

The measures include school funding, building shelters and aid for the fishing sector.

Some 10 billion pesos (about US$19 million) will be used for minor repairs to schools or building temporary colleges in quake-hit areas to restore classes before April 26, Chilean Education Minister Joaquin Lavin told a press conference.

The quake has left as many as 840,000 Chilean children unable to attend school.

The government will also offer scholarships of 30,000 pesos (US$58) a month over six months to support some 20,000 university students who were made homeless in the earthquake. The scholarships will help them to continue their studies.

The cost of the two measures will total 26 million dollars.

Lavin estimated earlier that the reconstruction of public schools and private colleges would cost the government 3 billion dollars.

To support the fishing sector, Economy Minister Juan Andres Fontaine announced a series of government projects, worth 10.5 million dollars, to help rebuild local fisheries, provide 60,000 new jobs to fishermen and buy new ships for them.

The measures will benefit about 9,000 families who were affected by the tsunami, Fontaine said.

The government will provide 20,000 emergency houses in addition to a previous 20,000 financed by the "Chile aids Chile" campaign, Planning Minister Felipe Kast said.

Kast also said that the government would distribute 25,000 tents to poor families in areas where bad weather frequently hits, since it takes time to build temporary houses.

The families will also receive thermal insulation, mattresses, kitchen utensils and an electric kit to withstand the coming winter season.

The quake, which measured 8.8 degrees on the Richter scale, destroyed 20,000 houses, 2,750 schools and 35 hospitals, making 500,000 people homeless.

President Sebastian Pinera Thursday estimated that the cost of reconstruction would amount to around 30 billion dollars, which accounts for about 17 percent of Chile's gross domestic product.

(Xinhua News Agency March 20, 2010)