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ITU rushes to aid of Chile quake and tsunami victims

ITU has deployed 25 satellite terminals to help restore vital communication links in the aftermath of the massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that hit Chile on 27 February, killing over 700 people and cutting communications links in the city of Concepción and towns along the coast.

In a press release, ITU indicates that the equipment was airlifted out of Geneva on Monday 1 March, and is expected to be deployed on the ground as early as today, 2 March. ITU is working with emergency communications partner Iridium Communications Inc. to ensure connectivity for satellite handsets, which will be used by local authorities to facilitate humanitarian assistance to disaster victims. ITU is also striving to source additional equipment from El Salvador and Nicaragua, where it had been deployed last year to help those countries restore communications after their own natural disasters.

“Our hearts go out to the government and the people of Chile, who find themselves having to deal with a tragedy similar to that which so recently devastated Haiti,” said ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Touré. “We are proud to be a long-standing leader in coordinating the provision of emergency telecommunications and will continue to actively contribute assistance in partnership with ITU membership.”

ITU’s Area Office in Santiago, Chile, is already providing expert on-the-ground support to local authorities, as well as to the local UN Operations Centre, to coordinate the restoration of damaged communication systems and manage spectrum requirements for the wireless systems used by humanitarian agencies.

Sami Al Basheer Al Morshid, Director, ITU Telecommunication Development Bureau, said: “I would like to thank Iridium for supporting ITU on this sad occasion. Communications networks were disrupted by this massive earthquake, hampering rescue operations and the delivery of essential logistics and services. Our assistance will contribute towards the bridging of the current communication gap.”

ITU is providing Iridium satellite phones which can use both satellite and GSM networks, as well as delivering accurate GPS positioning coordinates to aid relief and rescue. ITU covers all expenses relating to transportation, deployment and use of equipment, which will be at the disposal of the authorities in Chile for as long as they require it.

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