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Aid pledges pour into quake-stricken Chile

Video by Nicholas RUSHWORTH

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-03-02

Promises of aid have begun pouring into Chile as the country tries to cope with the aftermath of the devastating earthquake. The death toll continues to rise as rescuers search for survivors and try to help the two million displaced by the disaster.

Aid plane crash kills six

A small plane carrying an aid team to the quake-hit Chilean city of Concepcion crashed on Monday, killing all six people on board, officials say.
   
The aid team was going to assess hotel and accommodation options in the region when the Piper PA 31 crashed in the Tome area near Concepcion, air force chief Patricio Ceballos said.

AFP - Aid pledges poured into Chile from around the world Monday after the government made its first requests for help as the rising death toll from the devastating earthquake reached 723.
   
Outgoing President Michelle Bachelet specifically requested mobile bridges, field hospitals, satellite phones, electrical generators, disaster assessment and coordination teams, water purification systems, field kitchens and restaurants, UN officials said.
   
Some two million Chileans, or one eighth of the entire population, are estimated to have been affected by Saturday's massive temblor, which along with an Ecuador quake in 1906 is the seventh most powerful on record.
   
Chilean Foreign Minister Mariano Fernandez said after conferring with Bachelet that dozens of satellite phones for quake-hit areas were on their way.
   
He told a press conference that foreign nations were also sending mobile bridges and field hospitals.
   
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, preparing to visit the Chilean capital Tuesday to assess emergency needs, said she would bring along 20 satellite telephones and a technician.
   

Chile earthquake: the aftermath
Clinton, who was in Montevideo for Monday's inauguration of Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, said US search and rescue teams were also on standby.
   
Australia, which along with most of the Pacific was placed on tsunami alert after the huge quake, pledged five million dollars (4.5 million US) in emergency and reconstruction aid.
   
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said Australia would also provide emergency equipment such as portable generators as he expressed sympathy over the tragedy.
   
The European Union meanwhile said it was ready to deploy "an assessing mission" to look at structural damage to hospitals, schools and other facilities, its foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said from Brussels.
   
The European Commission has already approved three million euros (four million dollars) in emergency aid for Chile, while Japan pledged three million and China one million.
   
Chile's neighbors also responded.
   
Argentina, which shares a 5,000-kilometer (3,100-mile) border with Chile, said it would dispatch 54 health personnel, four water treatment systems and electrical systems.
   
Argentine President Cristina Kirchner told Congress in Buenos Aires that the private sector also agreed to send 1,800 kilograms (4,000 pounds) of non-perishable food and 500,000 liters (132,086 gallons) of bottled mineral water.
   
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva became the first foreign leader to visit quake-hit Chile on Monday, after learning the damage was far worse than feared.
   
Lula, who also attended Mujica's inauguration, later stopped in Chile and huddled with Bachelet at Santiago's airport before returning home.
   
Earlier, he said Brazil would do its utmost to help Chile as his government promised to send a field hospital along with search and rescue teams.
   
Bolivia announced it was sending 60 tonnes of humanitarian aid and an unspecified amount of drinking water.
   
"If necessary, we will send blood as well," presidential spokesman Ivan Canelas told reporters in the central Bolivian city of Cochabamba.
   
Chile is one of Latin America's wealthiest nations and better equipped than most to withstand and recover from earthquakes, but the total damage from the quake has been forecast at between 15 billion and 30 billion dollars.
   
Alicia Barcena, executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean based in Santiago, said the world body was rushing 45 satellite phones that should arrive on Tuesday.
   
"The Word Food Program has offered 30 tonnes of food, ready to be transported from Ecuador," she added.
   
Bachelet, due to hand over power to president-elect Sebastian Pinera on March 11, said the air force had begun flying in food and aid to badly-hit areas, including some largely cut off by the quake.
   
In Concepcion, Chile's second-largest city, looters pillaged shops and torched two stores as quake survivors ramped up a desperate search for food, angered by security forces trying to bar their way.

Date created : 2010-03-02

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