500,000 buildings damaged, 700 dead in Chile double-blow
SANTIAGO – Catastrophic devastation is coming to light in Chile from the 8.8 earthquake with up to 700 dead and some 500,000 homes and buildings damaged from the double-blow of the quake and the resulting Tsunami.
President Michelle Bachelet’s government declared a state of emergency and sent in the armed forces into Maule and Bio Bio as desperate people began looting stores.
Bachelet said: “We are facing an emergency without parallel in the history of Chile.”
A curfew was declared in Concepcion, one of the hardest hit areas, to bring looting and rioting caused by shortages under control.
The government said it was working with supermarket chains to distribute food and water in a coordinated way.
The government said hordes of criminals had exploited the situation “so we have two thousand troops from the Armed Forces in the streets to check and establish the peace of all the inhabitants of the province of Concepcion.”
The Red Cross in Chile said some 500,000 homes and other buildings have been damaged, with some coastal areas devastated by the Tsunami that hit within hours of the quake.
“We are facing an extremely critical condition,” said Interior Minister Edmundo Perez Yoma ” Today we want to go help people, give food and care.”
“Today, more than ever, we need a national union on this emergency we are all suffering,” he said.
Defense Minister Francisco Vidal said 10,000 members of the armed forces are being activated to assist with disaster relief and to maintain control as Chile rebuilds.
Army hospitals have been set up in two regions and more will be in place shortly.
Meanwhile, there is a question mark about whether the Chilean navy issued a Tsunami alarm in time. But the government insists that local police were given ample warning and that may have saved thousands of lives of people who moved to higher ground following the quake.
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