Three deaths, seven still missing in Chilean earthquake


Kate Casey

The Aysén Region is the northernmost border of the Chilean Patagonia, just south of the Puerto Montt region, and where salmon farm sites have quickly multiplied over the past five years. Seismologists affirm that the big quake on April 21 and subsequent earth tremors that have followed most likely correspond to a “honeycomb” of tectonic plate activity, which in fact has been felt through a series of over 3,000 earth tremors of varying degrees in the region since January of this year. The epicentre of the big quake was found 25 km. beneath the sea near Punta Tortuga within the Aysén fjord. Huge chunks of earth fell into the fjord creating a wave of at least 6 metres to roll through area, leaving 12 salmon farms completely devastated and many workers missing. As for the populated regions, Puerto Aysén and Puerto Chacabuco are the two small port towns in the area most affected, with landslides, structural damage and an energy cut for the past five days. A family of three (grandmother, grandfather, and grandson) were killed along the shoreline of Puerto Aysén and at least 10 people were accounted missing the day following the tragedy. As of today, 7 are still missing despite joint search and rescue efforts between military, municipal and private sources. 110 million US$ loss The four salmon companies located in the region along with various service providers have been working together in search and recovery efforts. The salmon companies most affected are Pesca Chile, AquaChile, Friosur and Salmones Antarctica. Although the salmon companies were aware of the seismic activity, they had counted on their contingency plans to save them from disaster. AquaChile, having suffered a landslide next to one of their farm sites in late January, evacuated workers from two of their farm sites in March and early April. According to news published today in Centro Acuicola ( the cost of the quake is equivalent to US$110 million in exports (nearly 5% of the industry’s total exports). Besides this are millions in structural damages in the farm sites, the subsequent ecological damage from the escape of an estimated 12 million salmon, and the incalculable costs of pain for the loss of inhabitants. President Michelle Bachelet has demanded that the salmon companies in the region relocate to safer areas, however the Association of Salmon Producers in Chile, SalmonChile is reclaiming such a demand as “bureaucratically impossible”, due legal restrictions in terms of farming concession areas. “We [the salmon farmers] are from this area, we know the zone very well and we have a commitment and a history uniting us in the Aysén region. We are not improvising, the contingency plans were in place and we are continually improving them to assure the safety of our workers in the area,” states César Barros, president of SalmonChile.