Stars Raise $57m For Chile

“I would like to send a message to my Chilean brothers,” Simpson, the popular beer-bellied US cartoon dad, said in Spanish during the telethon that ended at midnight on Saturday, raising over $57m.

“Chile is standing. The Chileans are a people with a lot of strength to rise from any circumstances. Homer is with the Chileans. Be brave Chile!”

Seven television stations interrupted regular programming for the non-stop event which was broadcast live from a theatre in Santiago and hosted by Chilean-born Don Francisco, a popular TV show host with the US Spanish-language network Univision.

Homes on the coast

“Chile helps Chile” aims to build at least 30 000 temporary homes for the more than two million people affected by the huge quake and monster tsunami waves that struck the South American nation on February 27.

The massive magnitude 8.8 tremor killed hundreds of people and destroyed an estimated half a million homes.

“I want to ask you with all my heart to reach into your pocket for a donation,” Soledad Onetto, a reporter for Channel 13, urged viewers.

Onetto gave a live report on how the country was recovering, speaking from a street in the coastal town of Constitución with collapsed walls and dangling wires in the background.

A tsunami that followed the earthquake slammed Constitución’s waterfront, destroying seaside homes and businesses and sweeping a still unknown number of victims to sea.

Politicians unite

The telethon began with a moment of silence for the more than 450 people known to have died in the disaster.

In a rare gesture, President Michelle Bachelet and her soon-to-be successor Sebastian Pinera carried a Chilean flag together as they sang a hopeful tune with Argentine singer Diego Torres.

“This is the time to be supportive and not selfish,” Pinera said.

Italian singer Laura Pausini appeared in a video message. Shakira phoned in and Pink Floyd bass player Roger Waters criticised the lack of a global fund for natural disasters and other emergencies.

Colombian singer Juanes shared his voice while Chilean writer Isabel Allende pledged $476 719 and joined telephone operators collecting aid pledges.

There was drama too when a masked man interrupted an anchor’s live broadcast in Constitución with a complaint that aid had been too slow to reach the town 60 000 residents, a third of whom lost livelihoods.

Many people missed the show because power has not been fully restored in the seaside resort where hundreds have fled to higher ground, fearful of another tsunami, and the full extent of the death and destruction is still to be known.  SAPA