Buenos Aires, Jan 19 (efe-epa).- Argentine President Alberto Fernandez traveled on Tuesday to San Juan province, on the western border with Chile, to tour the region damaged by the 6.4-magnitude earthquake last night and signed an aid agreement there to build 1,800 homes damaged by the temblor.
“If I know that in San Juan there’s a San Juan resident who is suffering, (that means) there’s an Argentine who’s suffering,” said Fernandez at a press conference in the provincial capital of San Juan.
Fernandez added that his obligation is to “be at the side” of the local residents, but that doesn’t mean “signig a degree to transfer funds.”
“Being at one’s side is looking into the eyes of Romina (a woman affected by the quake) whose house fell in on her yesterday and who saved herself by a miracle with her little daughter and telling her ‘Stay calm, we’re going to help you,'” the president told reporters.
The government’s plan consists of building 1,800 homes in the province through the Own Home-Building the Future Program, according to official sources.
The project will be funded with 7.1 billion pesos ($82 million).
Another government agreement will be signed to “promote and make a reality access to housing and an appropriate environment for another 186 million pesos ($1.2 million).”
The magnitude-6.4 earthquake that struck the region and was felt across at least four other provinces so far has delivered more than 50 aftershocks although no deaths or serious injuries have been reported, according to authorities.
In the urban communities of Pellegrini and La Paz, where about 240 families live, the quake collapsed 40 percent of the homes.
“Know that I am making a commitment to each of you. I know what’s going on,” the president told San Juan residents.
San Juan is one of the areas in Argentina that suffers the greatest seismic activity, and it is where in 1944 the worst earthquake in the country’s history occurred, killing some 10,000 people.
That is why local buildings must be constructed according to specific earthquake guidelines.
Fernandez said that “it’s to the merit” of local residents that they have built “an anti-seismic province,” since “an earthquake of almost the same magnitude – that of 1944 – did not cause damage as severe as that earlier quake or result in its staggering death toll.
San Juan Gov Sergio Uñac emphasized that “only twice has a president” come to San Juan after a big earthquake “not only to take charge of the situation but also to the damage to the spirit” of local residents, namely in 1944 and 2021.
Uñac referred to President Juan Domingo Peron’s visit to the area after the 1944 quake, a natural disaster that motivated him to take the first steps in his political doctrine, to which Fernandez adheres.
“We’re not reporting significant personal injury, just two boys with slight injuries and two adults with somewhat more serious injuries than the youngsters, but all four are getting through the situation,” Uñac had said earlier in the day at a press conference to provide a status report in the wake of the temblor.
The biggest shock from the quake, which occurred at a depth of eight kilometers (five miles), affected people with rickety homes, and provincial Security Secretary Carlos Munizaga on Tuesday morning called for “patience” because authorities are working to provide assistance to the families.
And he emphasized that quake prevention and education had worked appropriately in one of the areas in Argentina experiencing the greatest number of temblors.
The province had approved a building code for quake-resistant construction after the 1944 earthquake, the worst ever experienced in Argentina, causing the deaths of about 10,000 people.
“The 1944 earthquake had an intensity of 6.9, zero point five (magnitudes on the Richter Scale) more than the one (on Monday). The earthquake at that time destroyed 80 percent of the city’s infrastructure and left a regrettable toll of 10,000 deaths, being the most significant tragedy in the country’s memory,” Uñac said.