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National news downplays earthquake damage in southern Chile

Kate Casey

A headline appearing in yesterday’s business and economy section of Chile’s leading newspaper El Mercurio, states, “Damages to the salmon industry in Aysen will be less than projected.” This news may come as a surprise to the local community affected, over 1,600 km south of Santiago. The salmon industry plays a major role in the economy and community of Aysen, where one person out every household works either directly or indirectly in salmon production. According to the news article, the salmon companies affected by the quake continue to evaluate the damage done to their farm sites and so far it is less than expected, affecting mainly nets and mooring systems. The companies involved – AquaChile, PescaChile, Salmones Friosur and Salmones Antártica, inform they are working towards maintaining jobs for all of their employees and are also generating new job positions, depending upon what the government does to speed up the granting of farming concession sites outside of high risk areas. The article however left out the fact that the government has denominated the Aysen fjord and the town of Puerto Chacabuco as a region of high-risk seismic activity; and the recurrent quakes since April 21 have inflicted notorious psychological damage upon the community, provoking fear of returning to work in farm sites and processing plants. Seven employees are still unaccounted for. Employees holding middle management positions are predominantly professionals from Santiago or other principal cities, and are choosing to move their families from the region and look for work elsewhere. Besides an exodus of professionals, an estimated 12 million harvest-size salmon have escaped throughout the Aysen fjord.