Chile sends SOS to WHO after massive intoxication in Valparaíso region

SANTIAGO – Chile’s Health Ministry has asked the World Health Organization (WHO) to help install a monitoring system that identifies and gauges industrial emissions in the heavily contaminated Quintero and Puchuncaví regions.

“We are prepared to install a laboratory to monitor the environment. For this, we’ve contacted the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the World Health Organization. They will send specialists to help us define the best monitoring system of the polluting sources that exist in the region and endanger the public health,” says Health Minister Emilio Santelices.

The monitoring system will be the same as the network that the Environment Ministry is looking to install, according to the minister, cited by the Chilean media. The Chilean official has added that the new mechanism will not only determine the air quality bust also measure the extent and impact of the pollutants on the ground.

The SOS comes as the Chilean La Tercera newspaper has revealed that air quality installations in the affected regions, which are home to 15 big industrial complexes, failed to detect the toxic gases emissions and were only determined by a suitcase-like apparatus called “Miran”.

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At the same time, the health minister has questioned that the cause of the massive intoxication of 300 people last week was a “toxic cloud” that was formed over the two communes. “There are offensive odors that cause organoleptic effects. But, the toxic levels that could harm the health were never recorded”, has said Santelice in an interview with ADN Radio.

In the meantime, authorities are studying the possibility of opening the schools in the coming week after a week of being shut down following the emergency situation.

The tensions continue to be high and the local authorities have reinforced the security to avoid any further disturbance. “There are currently 70 Carabiniers as well as Special Forces present in the Quintero and Puchuncaví communes,” says the governor of Valparaíso Province, María de los Ángeles de la Paz.

However, the protests against the situation keep growing. Some 70 boats with black balloons and flags have staged a manifestation at sea to show their anger at the contamination of the Pacific Ocean in the areas near the industrial area.

Also, dozens of Quintero residents laid on the ground, as if they were dead, as a protest against the ongoing situation in the region.

In the meantime, Chilean President Sebastian Piñera, who has urged an investigation into the matter that point to the national oil company (ENAP), has visited the region to see the situation on the ground. However, his visit has caused anger among big company names. Faced with criticism, he has defended his action as his “commitment to those who need to be listened to”.

“I will always prefer the noise of manifestations than the comfortable silence of La Moneda”, the president tweeted in a reference to the presidential palace.

Ali Dashti
About Ali Dashti 10 Articles
Ali Dashti is an Iranian journalist. Having a Master's degree in Edition, Production and New Journalist Technologies from Spain's El Mundo newspaper in collaboration with CEU-San Pablo University, he speaks 4 languages: Persian (Farsi), English, Spanish and Russian.