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Curfew to quell looting in Chile
Santiago, Mar 2 (Agencies):
Published on 2 Mar. 2010 11:44 PM IST
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A curfew in Chile’s second city, Concepcion, has been extended until midday (1500 GMT) as troops struggle to contain looting after the earthquake. Dozens of people were arrested after looters fought over goods and set fire to a department store. The authorities have announced they are setting up an air bridge to deliver aid from the capital, Santiago, to Concepcion. Saturday morning’s 8.8-magnitude quake killed at least 723 people. The deteriorating security situation in Concepcion comes despite the influx of thousands of troops to reinforce local police. Many of the city’s 500,000 inhabitants are short of food and have seen their water and electricity supplies cut off. Some residents quoted by Reuters news agency said they were organising groups to defend their property. President Michelle Bachelet, condemning “pillage and criminality”, has sent 7,000 soldiers to the region. “I want to call to the people’s conscience. We must all work together,” she said. Meanwhile, rescuers searching the rubble of a collapsed apartment building in the city in which dozens are feared trapped say they have heard signs of life and are attempting to reach survivors. Reports are beginning to emerge of the scale of the devastation in other areas. The vast majority of Curico’s old town has been destroyed and as much as 90% of the mud and wooden buildings in the historic centre have either crumbled or have to be demolished. The town’s mayor said that one of the main problems was the hospital. The pillars have collapsed, he said, and the structure won’t stay up much longer. In the main square, the authorities have set up an emergency radio station. Meanwhile the coastal region near here has been even more badly affected. It’s understood that entire villages have been destroyed either by the earthquake or by a subsequent tsunami. A BBC team that reached the town of Curico, between Santiago and Concepcion, found widespread destruction. However, food and water was being distributed and the situation was comparatively calm, our reporters said. Some coastal towns and villages were hit by giant waves after the earthquake. In the fishing village of Constitucion, the mayor said the seafront and centre had been “completely destroyed”. The government admits that its attempts to provide aid swiftly have been hampered by damaged roads and power cuts. The air bridge between Santiago and Concepcion will help the authorities send more than 300 tonnes of aid, including 120 tonnes of food, to the worst affected area of the country. International aid has begun arriving. Neighbouring Argentina is flying a field hospital over the Andes to Chile and has pledged half a million litres of much-needed drinking water. Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva flew to Santiago and offered his nation’s support, while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due in Chile to see what Washington can do to help the country recover. After touring the disaster zone, President-elect Sebastian Pinera said the situation was worse than he had expected. “When we have a catastrophe of this magnitude, when there is no electricity and no water, the population... starts losing the sense of public order,” he said. About two million Chileans are believed to have been affected by Saturday’s earthquake, the seventh most powerful on record and the worst disaster to befall Chile in 50 years. The epicentre of the quake was 115km (70 miles) north-east of Concepcion and 325km south-west of the capital Santiago. About 1.5 million homes in Chile have been damaged. Most of the collapsed buildings were of older design - including many historic structures. One US risk assessor, Eqecat, has put the cost of repairing the damage at between $15bn and $30bn (£9.8bn - £19.6bn) or 10-20% of the country’s gross domestic product.

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