Once reaching the northern edge of Chile’s Región de los Lagos, the destruction of the February 27, 2010, becomes more evident. The roadside embankments are streaked with recent landslides. More frequent signs mark the end of highways. Busses stop into villages where lots are still strewn with rubble or buildings are cordoned off.
Travelling north from Temuco, heavy destruction is first seen in Angol, the last town of note in Región de la Araucanía. Here over 500 homes were destroyed. The Cathedral, Iglesia San Buenaventura and other churches, government offices and hospital were damaged. Businesses in the center of town, especially along Avenida O’Higgins, and Caupolicán, Lautaro and Prat Streetswere obliterated, Residencial Olimpia. Hotel Millaray and several restaurants are operating, as is the tourism office and bus terminal.
Los Ángeles likewise experienced significant damage. Reserva Nacional Laguna del Laja is open, but the road between Antuco and the park is cut for several kilometres by a landslide. In the southwest corner of Región del Bío Bío, large fissures opened on the Cañete-Contulmo road along Lago Lanahue. At the present time, situations are reported to be normalized in that area, including in Contulmo and Cañete. Hotels and other services are up and running. Reserva Nacional Nahuelbuta is open. Villages along the coast due west, north of Tranaquepe, were swiped by the tsunami, as was Isla Mocha where the park administration building of Reserva Nacional Isla Mocha no longer exists.
Chillán is the major city along Ruta 5. In this city, the churches and other buildings were wrecked. A few hotels bit the dust, and the remaining ones are often full with itinerant workers labouring on building houses for families who lost theirs before winter sets in. Visitors will have to walk around a while before finding space, or they can consult the Sernatur office. The murals by Siqueiros and Guerrero in the Escuela México cracked. Museums will be closed until December.
The hot springs, Termas de Chillán and Valle Hermoso, were unaffected. Bus service is back on par, though the train won’t be running again until June (consult http://www.terra-sur.cl).
But in this city, residents are beginning to enjoy activities the brisk autumn air, like the Air Force Day parade and an international artisan market.
One of the cities hardest hit by the February 27th earthquake was Concepción, due west of Chillán, a place we shall visit next.