Sister Vilma Tallone visited fma in Chile

Sister Vilma Tallone visited fma in Chile

Santiago (Chile). We share the testimony of Sister Vilma Tallone, Economer General, who from March 27 to April 3 visited the cities in Chile affected by the strong earthquake last February 27.

«My immediate departure for Poland prevented me from sharing my experiences earlier, a sharing that can give everyone an idea of how the earthquake impacted the Chilean province.

A brief visit of one week does not enable one to grasp the pounding heart of a nation, but a few beats, and given the circumstances surrounding my visit, beats of pain and of hope, in tune with Holy Week. I arrived exactly one month after the devastating earthquake and the first impression is an enormous desire to overcome the disaster, to heal the wounds, and to return to normality. The streets have been largely repaired, even if the signs persist of the crevices, the flooding, the damaged bridges as if after a wartime bombing. In the capital the rubble has been removed, although debris appears every day on the sidewalks: from new, small collapses resulting from tremors that don't leave one in peace; private demolitions of eaves or of the interior of buildings that the population tries to repair with its own means. One can still see poorly constructed housing in danger, sloping church bell towers and naves bandaged like the wounded after a large accident, large, old buildings, like our schools, partially or completely unfit for human habitation, because they have been rendered precarious through huge cracks, damaged pillars, insecure ceilings. An estimated 300,000 homes are needed for the population.

Madre Angela Vallese founded our first community in Chile 123 years ago. The Sisters have been in Santiago since 1893. The schools have the same number of years as our presence, and our presence has multiplied from 1900 to 1950.

The parts that did not resist the strong impact of the seismic energy are the oldest, already subject to other catastrophes, like that of 1960 or of 985. The intensity and the duration of this earthquake has shaken these colossal buildings of another era, with their heavy walls, but partially filled with dirt, or too rigid because they were constructed with cement walls, without columns. Only the lightness, the solidity, and the elasticity of the elements guarantee resistance to the earthquake.

In the 4 large schools of Santiago none of the chapels is usable, in fact, these tall and wide churches have been greatly devastated and will remain closed for a long time.

The oldest school Maria Ausiliatrice needs complete restructuring, with delicate points of intervention, be It for the exterior façade declared an historic landmark, be it in the structurally affected pillars.

The school Miguel Infante has modern and old rooms that alternately contain even the students of the school Maria Ausiliatrice . However, the gym is no longer available since the entrance has been sealed off, nor the classrooms adjacent to the chapel that is in danger of collapse.

The school Santiago La Cisterna has already repaired the ceilings and temporarily restored the gym that will function also as a chapel and a large meeting room.

The technical school San Miguel has restructured the first and second floors but has had to seal off the third that will need some major structural work. The kitchen and school cafeteria will remain closed until repairs have been done, which will take several months.

The house of spirituality adjacent to the aspirantate and to the elderly Sisters' home in Santiago El Bosque is greatly damaged. The chapel and an entire wing is uninhabitable, and the burst water pipes on the balcony damaged many rooms.

The School of Valparaiso repaired the most superficial cracks, even here to permit the resumption of the classes, but the chapel remains closed, there are some greatly damaged pillars, and the central part of the building needs to be razed and reconstructed.

The gravest and most visible damages are in the schools nearest the epicenter.

Linares felt the earthquake with great force, and the school has been greatly damaged, but many parts have already been restructured. An entire corner of the building, in its three floors, is inaccessible and needs to be demolished and rebuilt.

The Sisters have already restructured the ground floor and the second floor of the school of Santa Cruz but the second floor needs to be completely redone.

Three buildings vanished in Molina: the administrative building, the entrance foyer and adjacent offices, and the gymnasium. Even the areas surrounding the school is a great desolation: entire neighborhoods have disappeared.

Even Talca has felt the consequences: only 8 out of 24 classrooms are usable, therefore, the school does not yet have permission to resume classes. The gym is without a roof and damaged, as well as the adjacent classrooms. Entire parts of the school need to be demolished and rebuilt. The community no longer has neighbors because the whole neighborhood is razed to the ground. The newest elementary school, located in another neighborhood, where the Sisters had a second community until last year, is intact and the house, which was empty for a few months, now houses the community of the SDB who instead lost their home under the collapse of the parish church.

The Chilean province, with great courage, has invested all of its savings in the first repairs , even the savings destined to the new construction of the technical school of Puerto Mortt destroyed by a fire in 2007. As with Haiti, the entire Institute, invoking the intercession of Laura Vicuña and of M. Angela Vallese, unites itself closely to this province so that the 15,000 students won't have to feel the effects of a lack of educational structures in their growth».

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