A New Start After a Great Tragedy

It happened on 15 August 2007 around 18h30; a day Doris will never forget.

In the midst of preparing dinner for her family she felt the floor shake under her feet.  "My husband told me to grab the baby, but when we tried to get out of the house the door was stuck," Doris recalls.

The worst of the earthquake that killed 590 persons in Peru and destroyed more than 52,000 homes was yet to come.

In those brief seconds when the earth stopped moving Doris followed her husband's advice and took refuge under the bed with the baby, while her husband tried to pry the door open.  Seconds later it began again, this time with a vengeance.

Doris and her family finally managed to leave the house and ended up on the street along with all of their neighbors. "We stood in the middle of the street; the shaking got worse by the second.  We tried to make our way to my mother-in-law's house; but the light posts had been uprooted and were lying on the streets.  Pisco was like a war zone," she continues.

Two minutes after Doris' dinner was interrupted, the shaking stopped. 

But the calm did not bring tranquility to the neighborhood.  "People kept running by saying that the ocean had retreated and that we had to evacuate," Doris continues.  "We headed towards a hill and slept on the ground under the stars, we didn't even have a blanket."

Because it all happened so fast and at dusk, Doris had not seen the state of her home, but she was expecting the worse.  When her husband returned late that evening to get some blankets, he found only half the home standing and debris everywhere.

More surprises were in store for Doris and her family.

"Next morning we woke up and realized we had slept next to a garbage dump," shudders Doris.  "We went back to our town, San Andres, to check on my mother and saw that the ocean had spat rocks and boats everywhere.  It was a mess."

Doris and her family slept outside for a few nights, until a neighbor told her about a shelter that had been set up in a stadium.  But the conditions in the shelter were not much better; and they feared for their health and safety.

"My son got sick and had bronchitis, and my husband lost his job because the factory where he worked had collapsed.  Anyways, he would not leave us alone in that shelter," Doris adds.

But the family never lost hope. 

The municipality of San Andres allocated a plot of land for 100 families to live temporarily.  So ever so slowly, Doris and her neighbors began picking up the pieces, literally, of their lives.

An IOM assessment team determined the most urgent needs of the residents and began distributing tents, beds, mattresses, blankets, kitchen set and other basic items.  IOM staff set up 504 tents, distributed 3,300 mattresses, 1,168 beds, 2,988 blankets, 916 sheets, 341 kitchen sets, and 326 personal hygiene kits. 

"We are so much better now.  The children have gone back to school and have no health problems, and my husband is back at work.  So, little by little, everything is going back to normal," explains Doris with a sigh of relief.

The San Andres District in Pisco province was one of the worst affected by the earthquake

Read more about IOM's emergency assistance to Peruvians affected by the earthquake: