Chilean govt pledges U$4.8M for irrigation recovery after floods
Chilean Agriculture Minister Carlos Furche has pledged financial support to rehabilitate irrigation canals and wells in northern Chile, following floods that in addition to claiming 17 lives have also caused significant damages to agriculture.
Furche said CLP3 billion (US$4.8 million) had been budgeted for the task, in a recovery effort that will also include soil monitoring for possible contamination.
"In the region there are a lot of people who work under greenhouses that are covered in mud, so you have to clean, analyze the soil and verify whether there is contamination," he said, adding the analysis would come from the Institute of Agricultural Research (INIA).
"Our main priority is now to recover irrigation infrastructure as soon as possible in the canals so that we can determine if crops that are currently in the harvest period in the area can be saved.
"If there is no contamination it's easier because the mud could be put directly back into the earth; in contrast if there is contamination, you have to clean and take it away."
One of the worst hit growers has been Frutícola Atacama, which has been carrying out a search effort for workers that have been missing as a result of the natural disaster.
"We will continue with the tools we have and the details we have to limit the list of missing people," a company spokesperson told www.freshfruitportal.com.
On Monday the company announced there were four people missing - two men and two women. However, yesterday (Tuesday) the company announced on its Twitter account that "after an intense search, we found Cesar Vidal alive, the last of the unlocated men. We still need to locate one female worker".
"For us the most important thing is finding them...Today we find ourselves in a different setting than when we started - here the whole world is with this tremendous difficulty - it's a natural tragedy. Crossing facts, finding information, people, it is not an easy process and fortunately things have been clearing up. We are working on that," the source said.
Another company that has been heavily affected is Fresh Del Monte, which has also been providing support to the community.
"On Friday (March 24) I traveled by helicopter because we had a lot of people who were isolated. We arrived there Friday in the morning and trucks were sent from Coquimbo with provisions and water," said José Cangas, Fresh Del Monte's area manager for Copiapó.
"What we found there, in our case, is that there weren't any personal misfortunes to regret, but there was a lot of damage and injuries in San Antonio for people from the area," Cangas said.
The manager said the damages were seen in vines, irrigation systems annd roads. Out of Del Monte's 380 hectares of fruit planted in the area, around 60-70 hectares of table grapes are estimated to have been lost.
"This, adding to infrastructure damages because in one of the properties we share there - we have a border with Unifrutti - vines were damaged with all that is the structure of offices and buses. Thank God there were no people there...damages are significant in the plantations, and I think that few people came out unscathed from this."
"We managed to establish toilets, drinking water and partial electricity in two fields, and we are preparing to send heavy machinery to start the removal of debris and the habilitation of interior roads on the properties to start reconstruction."
Cangas added a refrigeration plant in Copiapó had been lost due to flooding.
Related story: Storms damage northern Chilean grapevines, infrastructure
Photo: Mark Scott Johnson, via Flickr Commons