Armed Forces ready to reconstruct quake-hit South, says Defense Minister

The Armed Forces are ready to begin work on reconstructing cities in southern Peru where a major earthquake in August 2007 caused widespread damage to infrastructure and killed hundreds of people, said Defense Minister Daniel Mora.

“This work will bring us even closer to the citizenry,” state news agency Andina reported Mora as saying.

The magnitude-8 quake, which lasted two minutes, destroyed three-quarters of Pisco’s city center, and serious damages were also sustained in the broader area of Chincha and Ica, with a small tsunami also damaging Pisco and the resort town of Paracas. Approximately 500 people were killed and thousands more were left homeless. According to official figures, some 40,000 homes were destroyed.

President Ollanta Humala, who took office on Thursday for a five-year term, said he would prioritize work to rebuild Pisco.

“I think it will be fundamental and it is going to bring the population into contact with the Armed Forces, which are prepared to take on the work of concluding the reconstruction of the South,” Mora said.

Ex-President Alan Garcia’s administration was heavily criticized for its failure in the reconstruction in southern Peru following the earthquake, despite promises to rebuild.  Millions of dollars in aid and donations poured into the area but corruption in local and central government hampered progress.

The Executive reaction was also slow, only sending rescue squads a full day after the earthquake, and took three days to send police and military to stop the looting and theft — 600 prisoners escaped when the Ica prison collapsed during the earthquake. 

Residents in the region held numerous protests demanding the government to provide more support.

“We have all been witnesses to what happened after the tragic earthquake in Ica,” Mora said.

“The participation of the army corps of engineers will be an important factor,” the minister added. He said the Armed Forces can have an important participation in the country’s socio-economic development, a point that President Ollanta Humala made in his inaugural speech when he mentioned the use of the military in re-building Ica and future involvement in other areas for roads and infrastructure.

The Peruvian military were frequently contracted to build roads and infrastructure in remote or non-profitable areas of the country until the late 1970s.

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