Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will travel to Chile later today to express his solidarity with the country`s Government and people in the wake of the recent earthquake and to assess the humanitarian assistance effort.
The Government estimates that nearly 800 people were killed and 2 million affected by the 8.8-magnitude quake, which occurred just off the coast of the South American nation early Saturday morning.
Mr. Ban is expected to meet on Friday with President Michele Bachelet and President-elect Sebastian Pinera, as well as senior government officials in charge of national disaster and emergency humanitarian assistance, his office announced.
The Secretary-General will reiterate that the UN system, through its Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), is committed to assisting the Chilean Government and people with any assistance required, both immediate and long-term.
OCHA reported yesterday that the situation in the main areas affected by the quake is still critical, and added that access to food and the restoration of electricity and drinking water are still the top priorities.
The Government, which is leading the rescue and relief efforts, has so far requested very specific priority items, such as field hospitals with surgical facilities, dialysis centres, generators, satellite phones, structural damage evaluation systems, salt water purification systems, mobile bridges and field kitchens.
During his visit, Mr. Ban is also expected to visit the city of Concepcion, one of the cities most affected by the earthquake.
In addition, he will meet with staff at the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), which is headquartered in the capital, Santiago, and other UN agencies and programmes that have a presence in Chile.
It was reported that ECLAC`s headquarters suffered no serious structural damage, but parts of the main building continue to pose a security risk for staff members. Staff whose offices are in good condition returned to work today, while the remaining staff will return gradually as repairs advance and staff safety is ensured.