SANTIAGO – The Chilean Health Ministry is set to send more than 100,000 additional vaccine doses and impose a near-total ban on vehicle movement in the northern part of the country, where heavy rains have left 24 people dead, 83 missing and nearly 30,000 injured.
Jaime Burrows, the undersecretary of Public Health, told reporters on Thursday that the government would be sending more than 100,000 hepatitis A vaccines.
This would be in addition to the 7,600 dispatched initially and the 140,000 influenza vaccines, 42,000 tetanus shots and 2,000 rabies vaccines that have also already been sent.
Meanwhile, in Copiapo, one of the worst hit cities, authorities have imposed traffic restrictions on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to facilitate cleanup operations throughout the city, including the removal of toxic buildup caused by mud that will dry in the rising temperatures and which, Barrows explained, could affect respiratory tracts.
Authorities will be distributing 1,500 ventilation masks while the operations are underway, he added.
Simultaneous flooding due to heavy rains in Antofagasta, Atacama and Coquimbo last week has caused extensive damage to villages, vehicles, houses and other infrastructure.
According to Enrique Paris, president of the Medical College of Chile, the main problems arising out of the disaster will have to do with drinking water contamination and the sewage network.
The road to recovery could take a long time, he warned, so the medical alert should continue until the basic problems of drinking water are solved, which could take some more weeks.
Psychological problems among those affected by the disaster could go up, according to the head of the college that has so far sent 63 doctors to the catastrophe-struck area.