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Seism “psychosis” as earth trembles in southern Chile

Sunday, January 28th 2007 - 20:00 UTC
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Santiago City Santiago City

Viviana Betancour governor of Chile's Southern Region of Aysen, which is living in a state of almost panic because of several days persistent telluric trembling, called on residents to be calm and trust that the best possible technical assistance is already working in the area.

Sergio Barrientos head of the Seismology Department form the University of Chile and one of the top experts of the country, who was sent by the Chilean Ministry of Interior National Emergencies Office, "is working with a team of scientists to determine the cause of the seismic tremors which have extended fear among the local population", said Betancour. Apparently Barrientos has requested three days time to have some confirmation of possible causes and in the meantime is pleading for no more unsupported versions as to what is supposedly happening or could occur. "There's time to wait. What I'm telling the people is that there's no imminence of a catastrophe or anything like it. We have all the necessary time to wait for the results Mr. Barrientos has promised", insisted the governor. "Barrientos has asked for three days when he expects to install four highly sensitive sensors, in what he considers strategic locations, to monitor the seismic effects and determine the origin of the phenomena". During the last six days over a hundred earth tremors of different intensity have been recorded in the area generating distress and a sense of pre-panic among the inhabitants of the region's main locations, Puerto Aysen, Puerto Chacabuco and Coihaique. People fear that the Hudson volcano, which is 137 kilometers from Coihaique could be preparing for an eruption as happened in 1991. "In three days we can have a better idea and with greater precision of what is happening and the causes", said Barrientos. However the mayor of Puerto Aysen Oscar Catalán is not so convinced and insists that the number of perceptible earth tremors is above 900 and residents have virtually emptied local stores of canned food, bottled milk, candles, batteries and other elements for an emergency. "It doesn't matter how much you tell people that forecasting a tsunami is difficult, there's no easing of fears. We're living a collective psychosis, which undoubtedly means a health risk, particularly for the children who are taken by their parents to the hills when the earth trembles", said Catalan. Nevertheless Catalan called on local residents to be calm since emergency services "have been coordinated", in the event of a major phenomenon. The "official" hundred tremors are in the range of 2 to 4 in the Ritcher scale Apparently a primary assessment from Santiago indicates that the seisms in the region are associated to the Liqueñe-Ofqui fault which begins in the Copahue volcano of the Region VIII and extends to Aysen which is Region is XI. "There are no immediate indications of possible volcanic eruptions in the area" according to reports from Santiago.

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