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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tsunami-hit fishermen now "scared of sea"

Sun, Mar 07, 2010
AFP
by Claire Rosemberg
ILOCA, Chile - The powerful tsunami that swept a string of coastal fishing villages out to sea a week ago carried away boats, tackle and engines too, and traumatised fishermen are now "scared of the sea." The wreckage along the 20 kilometres of southern coast hit by three gigantic waves a week ago Saturday is among the worst wreaked by the mega 8.8 quake, one of the biggest ever on record.
Blue-eyed and sunburned, Mamerto Jara Faria, 53 and a father of four, stands listlessly gazing out to sea by his bombed-out house. "What's going to become of us?" he says.

"My boat's gone, along with the nets and engine. I haven't got money for new ones - the cash under the mattress washed away." "And look at the sea," he adds."The fish've gone, the water's higher than it was, so the haul would be bad even we had boats."
Not a single person died along this coast, a special police investigator told AFP, but the sea swallowed one of Chile's three main fishing centres, a key industry.
"We thank God we're alive," said Francisco Rivera Cespedes, the 39-year-old former head of the 300-strong local fishermen's association as he supervises a hand-out of relief sent by fishermen from other parts - a consignment of disposable nappies, crates of water and biscuits.
"Many are saying they no longer want to fish, they're scared of the sea now," he said. "But that's what we do - fish!".
Piled high along both sides of the straight coastal road stand a jumble of mangled fridges and beds, stray computers, power lines and muddied rags. Twisted circus caravans and vehicles from the Circo Montini lie near the remains of a fair ground.
Rescue-workers this week saved lions and monkeys brought to entertain summer holidayers enjoying the seaside in hotels and bungalows, many built by fishermen for extra cash.
But in the dead of night, high waves powered hundreds of meters inland, literally sweeping away entire houses that now lie tumbled on their sides far from where they stood, or were hollowed out in the middle when waves crashed in and out.
"That's ours, over there, it used to be here," said Graciela Corea, 74.
Most people are homeless, and most sleep in tents. By day they pick through the rubble for hidden banknotes, mementos, or anything usable.
At night they sleep on high ground in the surrounding hills.
Survivors recount how people scrambled up the hillside minutes after the quake. "We'd been told it could happen here, after the one in Asia," Corea said. "Never, never in my whole life here had I seen one."
Thanks to the full moon that night, everyone went quickly, screaming "Run! Run! The sea's coming!"
"There was a long silence after the quake," she said. "I saw the first wave. It made a noise like a huge machine crunching wood. A few minutes went by, then the second wave came, the most violent."
More than 200 aftershocks - as strong as 6.8 and 6.2 on Friday - are traumatising Chileans already in shock.
Maria Yarce Jara, who waited three days before finding the strength to come down to the sea to see the state of her damaged house, said she cannot close her eyes at night. "It has been days since I slept."
By day, she and husband Francisco, and the children and grandchildren - they took to the hills with only a pack of nappies for a 3-month baby when the tsunami struck - camp close to their house to make sure nobody makes off with the little left inside.
By night they climb the hill.
"We're worried about the future," she said. "For now, Chileans from all over are bringing us food, water and clothing."
"But a few weeks down the road, people may forget us and how can we make out if we have no boat, no way of earning a living?"
President-elect Sebastian Pinera, who will be sworn into office next week, on March 11, toured the coastal distaster zone this week, and South Korean officials too came by promising help.
"We want to work though we're terrified of the water," said Francisco Jara. "But people say there's little chance of another tsunami like this for another 100 years, so we will return. We can't hang around uselessly like this much longer."

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