Emergency Telecoms Helps Earthquake-Hit Chile

Phone and Internet services are being restored to help aid agencies and local residents communicate

Charity Telecoms Sans Frontiere (TSF) has been busy trying to restore communications services in Chile following the earthquake which hit the country late last month.

The earthquake – at 8.8 on the Richter scale, among the most severe ever recorded – hit the country on Saturday 27 February at around 1am. More than 700 fatalities have been reported so far with more than 2 million people affected by the damage, according to reports.

Telecoms reach earthquake site in hours

TSF deployed a team to Santiago within hours of the earthquake being reported, the organisation said. The team will develop communications centers which will help local authorities and other aid agencies coordinate their activities. “These centres for emergency responders will offer broadband Internet access, priority voice communications, fax lines and all IT equipment needed for a field office,” TSF said in a statement.

The other aspect of the organisation’s work in disaster hit areas is to set up the communications infrastructure – usually using satellite equipment – to allow the local population to speak with relatives in the country or abroad. “Humanitarian calling operations started, enabling victims to get in touch with their family and receive personalised assistance and mental support,” the organisation stated.

TSF has also released more details of its ongoing work in Haiti which was hit by the effects of an earthquake measuring 7 on the Richter Scale on Tuesday, 12th January. Although the epicentre of the quake was off the coast of the island nation, it was still only 17km from the capital Port-au-Prince. TSF deployed a 3-man team from its Latin American base in Managua, Nicaragua equipped with satellite mobile and fixed telecoms tools, including Inmarsat BGAN or R-BGAN terminals.

“In total, more than 100 humanitarian organisations (NGOs, United Nations agencies and local authorities) benefitted from TSF’s services,” the charity said in a statement. “Thus, 1,360 relief workers worked with TSF’s satellite installations, with an average of 180 users a day (peak of 320 users during the first two weeks of the emergency). Thanks to the telecom TSF established, the international humanitarian community could coordinate its efforts for more than 45 days and respond more efficiently to the emergency.

TSF was set up in 1998 by former France Telecom employee Jean-Francois Cazenove and has deployed to numerous natural disasters and war-zones around the world in that time, as well as establishing longer-term communications projects.

Haiti also received refurbished laptops from the OLPC initiative, along with refurbished phones and solar-powered phones.

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