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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Chile Earthquake, tsunami news updates

More than 700 killed in Chile quake, tsunamis.

Chile Earthquake
A massive earthquake and tsunamis killed 350 people in one Chilean coastal town, doubling the total death toll on Sunday as the government tried to get aid to hungry survivors and halt looting.

The government said 711 people had been killed and sent 10,000 troops to enforce curfews and quell outbreaks of looting by people desperate for food and water after Saturday's 8.8-magnitude quake, among the world's biggest in a century.

Television images showed houses washed away by swirling waters, cars tossed into shattered buildings and boats lifted into the streets in coastal towns including Pelluhue and Constitucion, where 350 deaths alone were reported.

"It's an enormous catastrophe ... there's a growing number of missing people," Bachelet said, adding that food and medical aid was being sent to help the roughly 2 million people affected by the quake.

The quake wrecked hundreds of thousands of homes, mangled highways and bridges and dealt a heavy blow to infrastructure in the world's No. 1 copper producer and one of Latin America's most stable economies.

Widespread disruption to the power supply threatened to hamper Chilean industry's recovery, although Chile's biggest copper mines slowly resumed operations on Sunday.

Copper prices surged in early trading on Monday due to supply worries caused by the earthquake in Chile, jumping 5.6 per cent on the London Metal Exchange.

Giant waves set off by the quake crashed hundred of meters into coastal villages near the epicenter, demolishing houses and sending residents fleeing into the hills. "I've got nothing left but what I'm wearing. We ran desperately up the hill and watched how the sea washed everything away," an unidentified woman from the fishing village of Duao told state television.

The government had told Chileans immediately after the quake that there was no danger of a tsunami, an error it said was based on incorrect data from navy experts.

Japan lifts all tsunami warnings after Chile quake

Japan has lifted all tsunami alerts throughout the country, almost two days after a powerful earthquake hit Chile.

A tsunami more than one metre (3 feet) high hit the country's northern Pacific coast on Sunday, although bigger waves were expected.

Other Pacific nations were hit by tsunamis but no major damage or casualties were reported.

In Chile itself, however, areas affected by both the quake and the resulting tsunami saw hundreds dead.

In the fishing village of Concepcion, 350 bodies were found and in the port of Talcahuano more than 20 boats were swept ashore and dumped in the streets by the waves.

Large waves struck Chile's Juan Fernandez island group, reaching halfway into one inhabited area and killing five people. Several more are missing.

Warning systems across the Pacific have improved since the 2004 Indonesia quake sparked a tsunami that killed nearly 250,000 people.

Nations and regions affected by the Pacific "Ring of Fire" all sounded alerts, trying to estimate the anticipated time of arrival of any tsunami following the earthquake, which struck on Saturday at 0634 GMT.

The first tsunami waves to reach Japan were reported to be just 10cm high, with a wave of 90cm following.

The BBC's Roland Buerk in Tokyo says Japan has experienced many earthquakes of its own and was well prepared.

People in areas at risk were ordered to move to higher ground, train services running along the coast were suspended and steel gates across fishing harbours were shut.

In 1960 about 140 people were killed by a tsunami in Japan after a major earthquake in Chile.

Thousands of people also left coastal areas of the Philippines after warnings of a possible tsunami were spread by text message.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center had warned of "widespread damage" across the region following Saturday's quake, but later said waves were not as high as predicted.

A geophysicist at the centre, Gerard Fryer, told the BBC that the tsunami's impact was small because the earthquake occurred in shallow water.

The earthquake was "big enough to do significant damage, but not big enough to do anything large in the far field", he said.

Internet abuzz after Chilean earthquake

News of the Chilean earthquake, one of the largest recorded over the last 100 years, sent millions around the world online in search of information and ways to help.

The social networking site Twitter ( was abuzz a mere minutes after the earthquake struck.

On Twitter, which has developed into a key means by which both individuals and news organisations seek first-hand accounts of breaking events, thousands flocked to the hashtags #Chile, #earthquake, and #tsunami. Hastags are the means by which Twitter users organize messages - or “tweets” - around particular topics.

The best way to follow topics on a particular hashtag is to visit Twitter’s advanced search site ( and type the topic or hashtag into the “This hashtag” text box. Then click Search, and every recent tweet containing that hashtag will appear.

Followers of the hashtag #Chile provided links to up-to-the-minute news about the disaster, while those following the hashtag #earthquake concentrated on well-wishes and news about the potential after-effects of the historic quake. Reports of impending tsunamis around the Pacific Ocean sent legions to the hashtag #tsunami, where forecasts and first-hand reports from Hawaii and other endangered regions dominated conversation.

Hoards also flocked to the tweets of Elliot Yamin (, a former contestant of the popular American Idol television show, who was in Chile at the time of the quake. Yamin’s tweets gave followers a sense of the magnitude of the disaster.

Chile EarthQuake toll 700, Indian businesses hit

Even as coastal areas from Australia to the Russian Far East to Hawaii heaved of collected sigh of relief on Sunday as the feared tsunami waves triggered by the Chile earthquake of Saturday failed to do any major damage anywhere except in Japan, the picture emerging from the interiors of Chile is that of absolute catastrophe. The 8.8 degree temblor that hit the central-southern Chile on Saturday morning, has left more than 700 people dead and at least 2 million people homeless in this South American nation.

The massive earthquake also left some 53 countries anxious with suspense and prepared for a major disaster for almost 24 hours, the time that scientists predicted it would take shock waves from the powerful earthquake to race across the ocean in the form of massive waves.

The biggest earthquake to hit Chile in 25 years ripped apart buildings, highways and bridges and left a path of smoky rubble across a long swath of the. The death toll was expected to rise, particularly around Concepción, Chile’s second-largest metropolitan area, which is roughly 70 miles from the quake’s center. "We are facing a catastrophe of historic proportions," Chilean Interior Minister Edmundo Perez Yoma told reporters on Sunday.

Though the capital city of Santiago, which was shaken for more than 90 seconds on Saturday, was calm on Sunday with people, including the small Indian community, were trying to put their lives back on track amid smoke and rubble. "I have spoken to a number of Indians since morning and I haven’t heard of any loss of life among the community so far. However, our apartment has been damaged very badly with a lot of cracks on the ceilings and on the walls. Apart from this a lot of our furniture has been destroyed," said Prakash Bhojwani, a businessman and director of the Indian Association of Santiago, speaking to TOI from the Chilean capital.

Clinton Heading To Latin America After Chile Quake

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's weeklong, five-nation tour of Latin America is certain to focus on the earthquake in Chile, even as she tries to build support for fresh penalties against Iran.

Clinton will briefly visit Santiago, Chile's capital, Tuesday morning. "We want to show America's support for the people of Chile while mindful of the realities on the ground," Clinton aide Philippe Reines said Sunday.

The secretary had been scheduled to go to Chile late Monday for talks with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and President-elect Sebastian Pinera, who takes office March 11. But that meeting has been canceled as Chile struggles to recover from the quake.

Before Clinton left Washington on Sunday evening, she made clear she would show U.S. support for disaster rescue and recovery operations in Chile.

"Our hemisphere comes together in times of crisis, and we will stand side-by-side with the people of Chile in this emergency," Clinton said Saturday after President Barack Obama called Bachelet to offer assistance.

The State Department issued a travel alert Sunday urging U.S. citizens to avoid nonessential travel to Chile.

Clinton starts her tour in Montevideo, Uruguay, at Monday's inauguration of the country's new president, ex-guerrilla Jose Mujica. Mujica's election in November won praise from other left-leaning populist leaders in the region, including Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, a perennial thorn in the side of the U.S. who is cultivating closer ties with Iran.

Chile quake toll rises, emergency declared

Searchers scoured the rubble of collapsed buildings for survivors on Sunday as the toll from the devastating earthquake that hit Chile reached 708.

President Michelle Bachelet released the new figure, and the country was bracing for reports of even more deaths from the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that hit on Saturday morning.

Parts of the worst-hit region in the south of country descended into chaos as looters took to the streets and people complained the government was not doing enough to help them. Bachelet declared a 30-day state of emergency for the hardest hit regions of Maule and Biobio, along the west coast.

In Concepcion, the hardest-hit city, a nightly curfew from 2100 to 0600 local time was declared.

Defence Minister Francisco Vidal announced the deployment of 10,000 soldiers into the quake-hit region to provide security.

'We are standing before a catastrophe of such magnitude that all sections of society will need to pull strong, and together, to get through this,' Bachelet said.

For the first time, Bachelet asked for help from abroad after earlier saying Chile could take care of itself. She said Chile needed support for its hospitals, rescue efforts, communications infrastructure, structural engineers and de-salinisation plants for water.

The European Union (EU), the US and several neighbouring countries have offered help.

'The United Nations, especially the emergency aid coordinators, are ready,' UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said.

The EU has pledged three million euros ($4 million) in emergency aid.

Authorities estimated there was damage to two million homes. President-elect Sebastian Pinera, who takes over as head of state March 11, promised a national plan to rebuild the South American nation.

Widespread damage to roads and port installations hampered relief efforts. In many places there was no electricity, gas or water. The telephone network functioned only intermittently.

Santiago's international airport reopened for limited service by schedule passenger airliners, including a flight from LAN out of Peru, Chilean television reported.

Moderate intensity earthquake hits Pakistan

The facility had been closed because of structural damage to the terminal buildings, but officials said the runways were unscathed. Four more planes, including one from Miami, were expected.

In Concepcion, a city of more than 600,000 that was near the epicentre of the earthquake, rescue teams searched feverishly for residents trapped in a damaged apartment block.

Thirty people were pulled alive from the 14-storey building, which broke into two halves, but another 60 more remained inside. Most were asleep when the magnitude 8.8 quake hit at 3.34 a.m. Saturday.

Many of the city's inhabitants gave up waiting for aid and went out to look for food and water. One group of looters targetted a supermarket located next to a regional authority building.

'We're hungry and thirsty,' said one man as he fled with a bag of food. Women and children, their arms filled with goods from the shelves, joined in the looting.

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