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Death toll rises to several hundred amid reports of looting

Video by Molly Hall

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-03-01

A day after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck off Chile's coast, emergency officials said the death toll had risen to at least 400 people. Efforts are underway in Concepcion to rescue at least 100 people trapped in a collapsed apartment block.

REUTERS - Chilean rescue teams used shovels and sledgehammers on Sunday to find the survivors and victims of a huge earthquake that unleashed a Pacific tsunami and triggered looting by desperate residents.

Emergency officials said the death toll from Saturday's quake, one of the world's most powerful in a century, rose to more than 400 people.
 
Hundreds of thousands of homes and some highways across central Chile were seriously damaged, dealing a heavy blow to infrastructure in the world's No. 1 copper producer and one of Latin America's most stable economies.
 
In the hard-hit city of Concepcion, about 500 km (310 miles) south of the capital Santiago, about 100 people were feared trapped in a collapsed apartment block where rescuers worked through the night to find survivors.
 
"We spent the whole night working, smashing through walls to find survivors. The biggest problem is fuel, we need fuel for our machinery and water for our people," Commander Marcelo Plaza said.
 
Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse a crowd of looters carrying off food and electrical appliances from a supermarket. Television images showed people stuffing groceries and other goods into shopping trolleys and looting spread to other stores as police looked on.
 
"People have gone days without eating," said Orlando Salazar, one of the looters at the supermarket. "The only option is to come here and get stuff for ourselves."
 
Concepcion's mayor, Jacqueline van Rysselberghe, said the situation was getting "out of control" due to shortages of basic supplies.
 
"We've got a very complicated situation and the people feel very vulnerable," she told local radio, adding that the looting was "totally unjustifiable."
 
Aftershocks
 
Two million people in Chile were affected by the 8.8-magnitude quake, said President Michelle Bachelet, adding that it would take officials several days to evaluate the "enormous quantity of damage."
 
The quake damaged or destroyed 1.5 million homes, buckled roads and toppled bridges, posing a daunting reconstruction challenge for President-elect Sebastian Pinera, who takes office in two weeks.
 
Crushed cars, fallen power lines and rubble from wrecked buildings littered the streets of Concepcion, which has about 670,000 inhabitants and lies 115 km (70 miles) southwest of the quake's epicenter.
 
A string of strong aftershocks have rocked the country and strong one rattled buildings in the capital, Santiago, early on Sunday. Thousands of Concepcion residents camped out in tents or makeshift shelters, fearing fresh tremors could topple weakened buildings.
 
The economic damage from the could be between $15 billion and $30 billion, risk assessor Eqecat said.
 
Some economists predicted a deep impact on Chile's economy after the quake damaged its industrial and agricultural sectors in the worst-hit regions, possibly putting pressure on its currency.
 
Two major copper mines shut down by the quake were due to resume operations on Sunday, but analysts feared power outages could still curtail supplies from the world's No. 1 producer.
 
Chile's fourth-largest mine El Teniente, which accounts for more than 7 percent of national output, and the nearby Andina mine would both reopen, mining officials said on Sunday.
 
There was no information available on Sunday on the two Anglo-American mines where outages have halted around one-fifth of Chile's total production.
 
Saturday's quake triggered tsunami waves that killed at least four people on Chile's Juan Fernandez islands and caused serious damage to the port town of Talcahuano, flooding streets and lifting fishing boats out of the sea.
 
On the other side of the Pacific, waves of up to 1.5 meters (5 feet) hit the coastlines of Japan, the Russian far east and New Zealand's Chatham Islands but there were no reports of injuries or serious damage.
 
Hundreds of thousands of people in Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines and Russia's far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula were told to evacuate for fear of a tsunami caused by the Chilean quake, but there were no immediate reports of damage.

 

 

Date created : 2010-02-28

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