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Montevideo, May 26th 2019 - 11:15 UTC

Chile calls for aid and sends troops to prevent looting; body count reaches 710

Monday, March 1st 2010 - 05:33 UTC
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The magnitude of the catastrophe is only emerging The magnitude of the catastrophe is only emerging

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet announced emergency measures to deal with the destruction caused by Saturday's massive earthquake. The 8.8 magnitude quake - one of the most powerful recorded - devastated central parts of the country, killing more than 710 people and leaving an estimated 2 million people out in the streets.

Troops are being deployed to help with rescue efforts and prevent looting.

A curfew is in force in some areas. Basic supplies are to be distributed as rescuers reach worst-hit areas.

“We face a catastrophe of such unthinkable magnitude that it will require a giant effort,” Ms Bachelet told reporters on Sunday in the capital, Santiago.

The curfew, which began at 2100 local time, applies in the region of Maule - where more than 541 are confirmed dead - and in Concepcion, Chile's second city.

Both areas are being placed under special rules to speed up the delivery of aid.

The army has been sent to support police to prevent unrest in Concepcion, south of Santiago. The mayor has said food is running out and the situation in the city is getting out of control. Supermarkets and chemists have been looted and thousands of people remain homeless.

Meanwhile rescue teams are still trying to reach dozens of people believed to be trapped in a collapsed block of flats in Concepcion.

Many Chileans are spending a second night outdoors, afraid to stay in damaged homes.
Reports say 350 bodies were found in the devastated fishing village of Constitucion - which was hit by both the quake and the tsunami it set off.

In the port of Talcahuano more than 20 boats were swept ashore and dumped in the streets by the waves.

The emergency measures announced by Ms Bachelet also include: Air force flights to deliver supplies to affected areas; free distribution of basic goods in Maule and Biobio regions, but distribution points are yet to be decided; efforts to guarantee electricity distribution, as many areas remain without power.

Officials say public transport services are slowly returning to normal. One metro line in Santiago is operating. Roads are passable, although with diversions.

The epicentre of the quake was 115km north-east of Concepcion and 325km south-west of Santiago. About 1.5 million homes have been damaged. Most of the collapsed buildings were of older design - including many historic structures.

About 90% of the historic centre of the town of Curico was destroyed. Many roads and bridges across the affected area were damaged or destroyed.

One US risk assessor, Eqecat, put the value of the damage at between 15 billion and 30 billion US dollars or 10-20% of GDP.

Responsibility for reconstruction will soon pass to President-elect Sebastian Piñera, who takes office in two weeks.
“It's going to be a very big task and we're going to need resources,” he said.

Chile did not initially request foreign assistance, but Ms Bachelet later said some offers of aid would be accepted.

She said Chile needed field hospitals, temporary bridges, water purification plants, damage assessment experts and rescuers to relieve those already working to find survivors.

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