February’s deadly earthquake in Chile provided an opportunity to forge a better country, the country’s President Sebastian Piñera told the United Nations (UN) General Assembly’s annual high-level debate this week.
The 8.8-magnitude quake claimed the lives of more than 500 people and injured nearly two million others, he said. One in three of Chile’s children and young people – numbering some 1.25 million – could not start the school year because their schools had been destroyed or damaged. Losses from the earthquake totaling $30 billion, equivalent to 18 per cent of Chile’s gross domestic product (GDP) and representing the country’s largest-ever property loss.
“But from the ruins rose a people with qualities of solidarity, brotherhood, unity and heroism,” the President said.
Just 45 days after the quake, all children were back in school, while in 60 days, access to health services in affected zones had been returned. Three months following the disaster, more emergency housing than had ever been erected in Chile’s history had been built, while by the four-month mark, the economy was growing once again. The nation will not rest until each house, school, hospital and road are repaired, he said, “because for a country like Chile, forged by adversity, rigour and hard work, any crisis, however painful, represents an opportunity: the opportunity to build a better country.”
This generation of Chileans, the leader said, is poised to make the nation poverty-free and “with the opportunities for material and spiritual development for all its sons, such as has never been seen in our Latin America.”