Aftershocks Jolt Chile, Hamper Rescue Work

SANTIAGO, Chile, March 1 (UPI) — Three aftershocks rocked Chile Monday as rescue efforts pressed forward from an 8.8-magnitude weekend earthquake that killed more than 700 people.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said the death toll of 708 was likely to rise and ordered soldiers into the most devastated areas to provide security and help distribute aid, The New York Times reported.

The earthquake Saturday was “an emergency unparalleled in the history of Chile,” Bachelet said.

The National Office of Emergency said the number of displaced people was 2 million.

Bachelet said the government had struck an agreement with grocery store chains to give away food to needy residents. Her office also called on residents not to hoard staples.

Rescue workers used power tools and their bare hands to remove rubble to reach people who were trapped.

“It’s very slow, dangerous work because on top of it all it’s still shaking there,” said Victoria Viteri, a spokeswoman with Chile’s national emergency office in Santiago.

The first of the three aftershocks had a magnitude of 4.8, striking south of Valparaiso, the U.S. Geological Survey said. Within the next 90 minutes, two more shocks, registering 4.9 and 5.3, hit the Maule region south of Santiago, the Times said.

Bachelet, during a news conference Sunday, called on power companies to work quickly so service could be restored.

“We need energy first,” she said, noting that cell phone communications, medical care and water distribution depended on it.

The president said the majority of the known dead were in the Maule wine region and Bio-Bio, the Times reported. The military will handle emergency operations in those areas for the next month, Bachelet said. A limited curfew was imposed.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she would go ahead with a visit to Chile that was planned as part of her mission this week to Latin America. Clinton is scheduled to meet with Bachelet, who leaves office this month, and President-elect Sebastian Pinera.

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Categorized | Earthquakes, History, Military
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