Disasters & Accidents

Three years on, victims of the ‘Chilean Chernobyl’ still await justice

Santiago, Sep 14 (EFE).- When a massive chemical gas leak intoxicated over 1,500 people in the heavily industrialized cities of Quintero and Puchuncavi on Chile’s Pacific coast in 2018, residents of the region demanded justice. But three years on, those calls continue to go unanswered.

The massive pollution event from chemical and oil plants located around the bay some 100km from Santiago, which came to be known as the ‘Chilean Chernobyl,’ intoxicated more than 1,700 people, including 1,500 children, paralyzed local industry and closed down schools for weeks.

And yet no one has been held responsible for what is regarded as one of the country’s worst environmental crises.

Government pledges to salvage the zone continue to go unfulfilled.

“We are still waiting for justice, three years have passed and we still do not know who it was (…) and the state has been absent,” Carlos Vega, a fisherman and an environmental activist, tells Efe.

Those intoxicated by the pollution suffered from headaches, fainting and vomiting. Long-term exposure to such heavy chemicals can cause permanent brain damage.

The Prosecutor’s Office has put six officials at the state-owned National Petroleum Company (ENAP) under investigation, but experts say that identifying a culprit in such a case is complicated.

Environmentalist Rodrigo Mundaca, governor of nearby Valparaiso city at the time of the event, told Efe that the “government continues to prioritize industrial activity over communities.”

“That is why they are called ‘sacrifice zones’ because there are people susceptible to being sacrificed for the sake of development.”

Other promises such as the construction of a cancer center and two new health centers or a plan to analyze the impact of toxins on health were not met either.EFE

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