Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 25 December 2014

In Pictures: Chile quake death toll rises; millions affected

Rescue workers looks for earthquake victim in a collapsed building in Concepcion, Chile, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010.
Rescue workers looks for earthquake victim in a collapsed building in Concepcion, Chile, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010.
A man holds up a Chilean flag in a flooded area after an earthquake in Pelluhue, some 322 kms, about 200 miles, southwest of Santiago
Bruno Sandoval, right, and Aileen Marquez look at a damaged vehicle after an earthquake in Pelluhue, some 322 kms, about 200 miles, southwest of Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday.
Police officers search for victims after an earthquake in Curanipe, some 389 km., about 241 miles, southwest Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28
People stand in front of a damaged house after an earthquake in Pelluhue, some 322 kms, about 200 miles, southwest of Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday.
Police officers carry the body of an earthquake victim in Curanipe, Chile, some 241 miles (389 km.) southwest of Santiago Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. An 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
People survey a destroyed house after an earthquake in Curanipe, some 389 km., about 241 miles, southwest Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
Residents look at a collapsed building in Concepcion, Chile, Saturday Feb. 27, 2010 after an 8.8-magnitude struck central Chile. The epicenter was 70 miles (115 kilometers) from Concepcion, Chile's second-largest city. (AP Photo)
People walk past a collapsed building in Concepcion, Chile, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/ Natacha Pisarenko)
Rosa Neira, 36, stands in front of a damaged house after an earthquake in Pelluhue, some 322 kms, about 200 miles, southwest of Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
Cars are seen overturned and stuck at a collapsed road in northern Santiago Saturday Feb. 27, 2010. An 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile early Saturday. The quake hit 200 miles (325 kilometers) southwest of the capital and the epicenter was just 70 miles (115 kilometers) from Concepcion, Chile's second-largest city
Police officers search for victims after an earthquake at the shore of Pelluhue, some 322 kms, about 200 miles, southwest of Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday.
A man stands in front of a damaged house after an earthquake in Pelluhue, some 322 kms, about 200 miles, southwest of Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
A flooded area is seen after an earthquake in Pelluhue, some 322 kms, about 200 miles, southwest of Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
A dog sits in front damaged buildings after an earthquake in Pelluhue, some 322 kms, about 200 miles, southwest of Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
People stand next to a damaged bridge after an earthquake in Pelluhue, some 322 kms, about 200 miles, southwest of Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
Soldiers sit in a vehicle in front of a destroyed building in Concepcion, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010.
People walk along the shore after an earthquake in Pelluhue, some 322 kms, about 200 miles, southwest of Santiago
People walk aside a destroyed road in Talcahuano, Chile, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010, following a devastating earthquake that struck Chile early Saturday Feb. 27. (AP Photo/ Aliosha Marquez)
People fill containers with drinking water in Talcahuano, southern Chile, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. An 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/ Aliosha Marquez)
Soldiers guard the streets of Talcahuano, southern Chile, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. An 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/ Aliosha Marquez)
People carry supplies along a street in Talcahuano, southern Chile, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. An 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/ Aliosha Marquez)
Rescue workers recover the body of an earthquake victim from a collapsed building in Concepcion, Chile, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010.
A man carries goods during looting in a supermarket in Concepcion, Chile, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday
People walk in a damaged area of Curanipe, some 389 km., about 241 miles, southwest Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A magnitude-8.8 earthquake struck central Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
Police officers recover the body of a woman buried in the mud after drawing under sea water during the earthquake is seen in Curanipe, Chile, some 241 miles, 389 km, southwest of Santiago Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. An 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
People carry supplies as they walk through the streets of Talcahuano, Chile, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A devastating earthquake struck Chile early Saturday, Feb. 27, knocking out power and closing most businesses. (AP Photo/ Aliosha Marquez)
A man walks past a destroyed road in Talcahuano, Chile, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010, following a devastating earthquake that struck Chile early Saturday, Feb. 27. (AP Photo/ Aliosha Marquez)
A vehicle sits on the rubble of a house after an earthquake in Curanipe, some 389 km., about 241 miles, southwest Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
Members of a family, with sacks containing food, take a rest in front of a collapsed building in Concepcion, Chile, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/ Natacha Pisarenko)
People stand next to a damaged bridge after an earthquake in Pelluhue, some 322 kms, about 200 miles, southwest of Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)
Residents search for belongings to recover from destroyed houses by the sea in Pelluhue, Chile, some 206 miles (332 kilometers) southwest Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. An 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Roberto Candia)

Hundreds of thousands of people in Chile are struggling to find shelter, food and drinking water after one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded struck the country.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet last night announced that the death toll had leapt to 708, as state TV said 300 people may have perished in the small coastal city of Constitucion alone. The earthquake struck in the early hours of Saturday, measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale, and yesterday government officials worried that as many as two million people had been affected or displaced as a result.

But there was good news as the tsunami warning for the entire Pacific Basin was lifted, with no major loss of life reported.

The Chilean government continued to turn down international offers of assistance. But while life was returning gradually to something close to normality in the capital, reports from cities like Constitucion and the much larger city of Concepcion revealed widespread damage to buildings, roads and bridges. The risk of panic and disorder was highlighted by a number of reports of looting.

In that same city, the closest large metropolis to the epicentre of the quake, rescue workers toiled with jack-hammers and small bulldozers to pull residents out of a recently completed 15-storey apartment block that had toppled onto its back. Officials said as many as 80 people remained trapped in the wreckage. Twenty-five people had escaped alive.

Rosa Molino said she and her family spent Saturday night outdoors, huddled on the patio of her heavily damaged house in the village of Portozuelo, about 30 miles from the coast. Recalling the moment of the earthquake, she said: “I got out of bed and was immediately knocked to the ground by the shaking. My grandson came and helped me out of the house.”

Ms Molino said around 60 houses were completely destroyed in her village, and basics like water and bread were being sold at prices at least four times higher than normal. Ruptured power and water lines as well as impassable roads and bridges spelled days of worsening conditions.

The country's main airport began to accept international flights operated by Chile's LAN Airlines. Most of the serious damage in Santiago was visible on older buildings, including churches and the main university. Newer structures, built to stricter anti-seismic codes, suffered mostly cracks and broken windows only.

Tsunami alerts sent hundreds of thousands of people away from their shoreline homes in countries across the Pacific Ocean at the weekend. But even in those places where the danger had seemed elevated, including Hawaii and Japan, the waves, once they arrived, were relatively small and did little damage.

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