March 3, 2010

AN ARMY OF MARIAS:

These and hundreds of other survivors of Chile’s devastating earthquake have organized neighborhood watch groups, arming themselves and barricading streets to protect their damaged homes from looters. The groups have stepped in as police were overwhelmed by looting and soldiers were slow to restore order after an earthquake and tsunami.

“We take care of ourselves here,” said 51-year-old Maria Cortes. . . . Throughout the quake zone, survivors lived in fear and fed on rumors of roving mobs. Gunfire punctuated the night in Concepcion, Lota and other towns.

The eruption of banditry shocked the nation and put President Michelle Bachelet on the defensive. Chile’s much-praised urban rescue teams were hampered by slow-to-arrive equipment – and the looting of their local base in Concepcion.

Almost everywhere, citizens have banded together to eat, get water and protect damaged or destroyed homes.

This is why Americans have guns. And why getting to know your neighbors is an important part of disaster preparation.

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