Rebuilding quake-destroyed hospitals to cost Chile $3.6 bn

Last Updated: Tue, Mar 09, 2010 05:10 hrs

/EFE) Chile's health minister has estimated the cost of rebuilding hospitals destroyed in the magnitude-8.8 earthquake that struck the Andean nation Feb 27 at some $3.6 billion.

The work of reconstruction will take at least three years, Alvaro Erazo said, adding that during this period hospitals will be installed in the affected areas of central and southern Chile.

He offered the estimates to reporters while visiting a field hospital set up in the working-class Santiago neighbourhood of Cerro Navia.

'Eleven of our hospitals are affected, of which seven are no longer operational because their structures have been damaged and must therefore be rebuilt,' the minister said.

The modular hospitals authorities plan to set up during the reconstruction period are a lot more sophisticated than field hospitals, with much better facilities for looking after patients, Erazo said.

'We will install 15 modular hospitals in areas where we have had damages to hospitals with more than 400 beds,' he said.

Erazo also said that the vaccination of children with hepatitis A is now being carried out at shelters in the towns hit hardest by the earthquake, and said that this week 4,000 are expected to be immunised in the regions of Bio Bio, Maule and O'Higgins.

The provisional death toll from the earthquake topped 800 last week, but authorities subsequently suggested that the figure was inflated. Around 450 bodies have been recovered.

Chile's Public Works Minister, Sergio Bitar, said Sunday that the cost of repairing infrastructure damaged in the temblor would be in the range of $1 billion to $1.2 billion.

He told reporters that the amount includes repairs and the immediate replacement of roads, airports, dams, canals and drinking water in the countryside and along the coast.

With regard to repairing damages suffered in sectors given in concession to private companies, as in the case of expressways, Bitar said that the companies themselves estimate that they will cost some $150 million.

President-elect Sebastian Pinera announced Monday his proposal to keep army soldiers deployed in the areas most devastated by the temblor.

He also said, in an interview on ADN radio, that the state of emergency will be extended 'in a very selective way to those towns that require it'.

'We're going to leave the soldiers deployed, in the first place to guarantee public order...but the work of the military should go far beyond that, since that is essentially the institution that has the tools and instruments needed in times of catastrophe,' he said.

'The military have logistics along with personnel that is trained and disciplined. They also have the equipment to help get things back to normal much quicker,' he said.

Pinera, a right-wing billionaire, will be sworn-in Thursday as Chile's next president.

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