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Chile: Valparaiso's unbridled urban development under climate threat

Dozens of high-rise buildings with stunning sea views built on a sand dune. The unbridled urban development of Valparaiso, one of the most touristic regions of Chile, is now under climate threat, with the risk of several buildings collapsing.

A gaping hole 15 meters long and 30 meters deep opened up on Sunday under the foundations of the Euromarina II building in Reñaca, the most exclusive seaside resort in Viña del Mar, 120 km from Santiago.

The 200 apartments on 13 floors, built in 2017 on the second line and some costing up to $500,000, were evacuated due to the risk of collapse.

Sergio Silva, 77, returned to load some belongings into a car, while more rain is forecast. “We are evacuating some important things, not everything (…) Everyone evacuated, for safety” and because the drinking water supply was cut off, Silva told AFP.

Some residents of the building below Euromarina II, at sea level, also evacuated, for fear that Euromarina II would collapse.

“Many left as a precaution. Those of us who remained prepared to have to evacuate urgently,” said Claudio Camus, a 43-year-old resident.

Chile: Valparaiso's unbridled urban development under climate threat

The gaping hole, 15 metres long and 30 metres deep, that opened under the foundations of the Euromarina II building in Reñaca, in Viña del Mar, Chile, on June 12, 2024 © AFP – RODRIGO ARANGUA

In August and September 2023, two landslides undermined the foundations of three other buildings: the Kandinsky, the Miramar-Reñaca and the Santorini. The coastal road was even cut off for a time.

Euromarina II is located on a 28-hectare dune field that, until 1994, was part of a protected natural sanctuary. But a change in planning regulations has allowed the construction of 44 luxury buildings.

“The risks taken by building here are enormous,” Macarena Ripamonti, the mayor of Viña del Mar, told AFP.

The land was public but “it was sold in a shameless manner and it was possible to urbanize it because there was authorization to reduce the protected sector of the dune field”, she explains.

– Never here again –

The explosion of urbanization over the last 20 years on these dunes n has not taken into account the extreme climatic phenomena which are intensifying, a consequence of the El Niño phenomenon or the effects of climate change.

“It is a fragile sector which should have been preserved”, estimates Ivan Poduje, urban planner and candidate for mayor of Viña del Mar. “What was done here was essentially to break an ugly rule (…) which allowed too much construction of buildings. Undeniably there were very bad urban planning choices”, he adds.

The lack of rainwater collectors is pointed out to explain the gullies created on the sandy slopes.

Chile: Valparaiso's unbridled urban development under climate threat

Aerial view of rampant urban development in Reñaca and the Euromarina II building, with a hole under its foundations, in Viña del Mar, Chile, June 12, 2024 © AFP – RODRIGO ARANGUA

“The collector network is quickly overwhelmed (…) With 42, 43 buildings, in an area with such a slope and such fragility”, explains Mr. Poduje.

For Luis Lopez, construction engineer and professor at the Catholic University of Valparaiso, a solution exists however: “Change the arrangement of the collectors and bring the drainage from this part of the city towards other sectors which would not present risks for buildings and would not affect the dune”.

If structural works can avoid a potential catastrophe, the mayor of Viña del Mar is now categorical: “I will never allow another building to be built here.”

All rights of reproduction and representation reserved. © (2024) Agence France-Presse

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116