By Matt Skenazy
Navarro family portrait by Jeff Flindt
Photos & Captions (below) by Philip Muller
It’s been nearly a month since an 8.8 magnitude earthquake ravaged Chile, sending out a Tsunami that had the entire Pacific Rim waiting with bated breath. Now, as the aftershocks slowly become less and less frequent, Chile rebuilds. We caught up with Chile’s big wave and environmental ambassador, Ramon Navarro, to check up on the land of endless lefts.
SURFING Magazine: How have things been panning out since the earthquake on February 27th?
Ramon Navarro: Well, the situation now is getting better, but still there is too much work to do. The destruction on some places is complete and the people still don’t have water, or houses. The winter season is coming and many towns are not prepared for it. There are still aftershocks, a few pretty solid ones, like 6.9, and every day at least four or more between the four and five grade. They make the people still afraid.
What still needs to be done?
Wow, what a big question. First off we need to clean with big machines and clean all the areas. The government is working on that now. And then we need to rebuild everything. The thing is, the medias aguas (little wood mini houses) are not real houses to live out a hard winter on the coastline. The heating is going to be a big problem. Then we have to clean all the beaches. Nobody’s thinking about that, but they are full of trash. In the future we need to be ready with a real tsunami alarm system.
A new President was elected on March 11 — how has Sebastián Piñera helped, or hindered, the recovery effort?
The new president is now fully concentrated on the recovery. The first thing he is going to get ready are all the schools, and put a deadline at the 27th of April, so it’s going to help the children. I think he has helped big time, and he’s looking to take more money from different areas to help more. I hope it works.
How has the international surf community responded to the situation?
The surf communities from the USA and Chile have helped big time. They are one of the communities to help during the first days, and they’re still working.
Was your home directly affected?
No. Thank God nothing happened. My house is pretty far from the ocean.
You were on the forefront of addressing environmental issues in Chile, how has this crises affected that fight? Did it bring Chile’s problem to the forefront of the world stage? Or push environmental issues lower on the list of priorities?
Yeah it’s still a big problem, but now it’s going to be one of the last things on the list. I hope this helps to make more green houses and solar and wind systems. Because of the quake there was no electricity for a few days and some places are still without it. It’s a good opportunity to build these things.
Can you gauge the feelings of the majority of Chilean people right now?
Well, the feelings of the people that I’ve seen are very good, I can say the fishermen are the most positive and look to the future with good feelings. But a lot of the people that I have talked to still fear the aftershocks. I know further down south the people are more down because they lost everything.
What has surprised you most since the earthquake?
The bad people, the ones that are stealing from the supermarket and the houses.
A few of them are running out with TV’s or washing machines. It’s heavy to see that kind of thing at this moment. One old woman told me at Iloca her house was completely destroyed from the quake and she ran to the hills to avoid the tsunami. When she came down the tsunami had never hit her house, but the people stole everything from her. That was heavy. The other thing that surprised me was all the people helping, the days when traffic was full with trucks helping.
Anything else that you would like people to know?
Yeah, for sure, I hope this isn’t going to make everyone against my country, and stop them from coming here. The waves are still amazing, and Chile relies on its tourism industry. It’s going to be hard to return to a normal life, so we need more help for the coastline to start again. Fishermen have nothing. We surfers have to give back to those places for all the good moments and good times. Arriva Chile.