Chilean Town Embarks on Road to Recovery

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DICHATO, Chile -- Less than two weeks after a massive earthquake hit the South American country of Chile, residents in one coastal town are trying to rebuild their lives and salvage what's left of their homes.

The 8.8 magnitude quake left the once beautiful seaside town of Dichato in ruins.

A Town in Tatters

"This used to be a beautiful seaside town," earthquake survivor Rosario Torres said. "It was quiet -- a safe place for kids. The sea didn't harm anybody. Now look at it. Beautiful Dichato is in ruins. I don't want to remember it like this."

Torres' home, located a block from the ocean, was also demolished.

"Welcome, this was the entrance to my home, this walkway right here," she said pointing to the rubble.

In fact, more than three-quarters of the buildings in the small fishing community were destroyed when one of the world's most powerful earthquake's struck Chile's Pacific Coast area.

However, it wasn't the quake that caused all of the massive damage, but the resulting tsunami -- wave upon waves of water coming in after the Feb. 27 quake.

"It was like the ocean was breathing in then going out and sucking in all hour homes and possessions," Torres said.

Clinging to the only possession she had left, a stuffed animal, Torres scoured the shoreline hoping to find anything worth salvaging of her life in Dichato.

"I have mixed feelings about being back," she told CBN News. "I'm thankful that no one in my family died. But these waters have destroyed my life. All the love I had for Dichato has gone."

Rebuilding Dichato

Almost two weeks after the earthquake, some residents are trying to rebuild. Pedro Eriz Gonzales opened a small supermarket on Main Street less than a month ago.

"My son is encouraging me to clean up this place," Gonzales said. "We have to move on. We can't just sit with our arms crossed and give up."

So Gonzales has hired a few townspeople who lost their homes and their jobs and put them to work.

"I'm trying to play my part to see Dichato rise again," he said.

But that's going to take a long time. Residents are still lining up at the edge of town waiting to get in and see what's left of their lives.

"I've lived here for 30 years," returning resident Veronica Jara said. "I have so many friends in this community. I'm nervous about the future. I'm nervous about going back."

More than 75 percent of Dichato has been destroyed. No one knows for sure how many people were killed that fateful morning and scores or residents are still missing.

Little Time to Mourn

In the meantime, the cleanup has begun. But like so many residents here, Torres isn't convinced rebuilding in this exact place is such a good idea. She hopes the government considers moving the town to a safer spot that's not so close to the waters.

After ending three days of mourning for the victims of the earthquake, life is now slowly returning to many parts quake zone. Yet there are daily reminders of the challenges that lie ahead - like Daniela Neira and her parents waiting in line in order to receive drinking water.

"We've not even had the chance to cry or mourn our losses since the earthquake," Neira despaired. "Most of our time is spent on thinking about how we are going to make it to the next day."

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CBN News
George Thomas

George Thomas

CBN News Sr. Reporter

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