Priests lug in supplies to help flood victims in Chile

Chile floods Father Alex Troncoso (left) and Father Bernardo Benegas (right) bring in supplies for flood victims in the Maule region of Chile, which experienced devastating floods in June 2023. | Credit: Episcopal Conference of Chile

A group of priests from the Diocese of Linares in the Maule region of Chile put their backs to work to help the communities in the foothills that were hardest hit by flooding after rivers and estuaries overflowed at the end of June.

Thousands of people had to be evacuated due to the flooding of the Maule River from heavy rains that poured down on southern Chile.

The worst rainfall in the last 30 years in the area caused two deaths and left almost 10,000 people cut off from the outside world.

Since the beginning of the emergency, Salesian priest Bernardo Benegas along with Father Alex Troncoso, Father Julio Campos, a team of Franciscan priests from Parral, as well as men and women religious from the area have been receiving contributions from the community and organizing help.

Since then they have carried in on their shoulders charcoal, water drums, clothes, and food, supplies donated by so many of the faithful throughout the country.

The donations go mainly to the communities of Cajón Achibueno and Ancoa, which were the most affected by the disaster.

The Catholic community of the Maule region is just one example of the many other priests, as well as men and women religious, who, along with groups of volunteers, are bringing help to the communities of the Linares foothills and the banks of the Perquilauquén River in the town of Parral.

Almost a month after the Maule River overflowed, aid is beginning to dwindle and television stations are no longer showing what families are experiencing.

The priests said they wish they could solve the problems of the isolation, cold, and loneliness that people are experiencing. However, they appreciate that they can at least “bring a little hope, a little shelter, a little company and the love of so many people whose help adds up bit by bit,” the Chilean Bishops’ Conference reported on its website.

The storm caused the two main rivers that flow through Santiago, the Mapocho and the Maipo, to overflow their banks and then moved south, where it caused flooding in several towns.

In a few hours, the intense rains were concentrated especially in the Andes mountain range and foothills, where snow usually falls. This caused a great deal of erosion in the hills and also the rapid rise of the water level in the rivers.

In the areas bordering the banks of the Maule River, the water rose twice its normal level during the storm, forcing nearly 2,000 people to evacuate.

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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