Chile Update: March 3rd, 2010

Santiago’s Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport has reopened for domestic and international flights— but there’s a catch. Because both the international and domestic terminals were heavily damaged in Saturday’s quake, passengers are being processed outside or in tents. All inbound international flights are stopping elsewhere in Chile first for immigration control and customs. Needless to say, this is causing some serious problems. Check with your airline if you have a flight into, or out of, Santiago. Additionally, there is no ground transportation from the airport, and arriving passengers are being bused to metro stations in the city.

The government has urged people to avoid unnecessary travel in affected regions. Route 5, the main highway between Santiago and the south, is mangled and impassable in several locations (as you can see on this Google map, showing road obstructions and damage throughout the country). Authorities are asking drivers not to use the highway. Gas is also hard to find south of Santiago.

In Santiago itself, however, both the Transantiago and the Metro are operating more-or-less normally. If you are planning on staying in areas near the quake zone, including Santiago, Valdivia, Temuco and Pucón, it’s worth calling ahead to your hotel; since people are leaving quake-ravaged cities for less-damaged ones, and visitors stuck in Chile are having to extend their stay, many hotels are crowded.

The worst-hit areas are still to be avoided. While rioting and looting have died down in Concepción, the situation there remains difficult. Search-and-rescue efforts are still underway in Chillán, the Maule Valley and coastal communities, such as Constitución, Talcahuano and Pelluhue. The Juan Fernández Islands were devastated by tsunami waves and remain inaccessible.

Check back here as VIVA continues to receive more information about the situation in Chile.

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