Quake, tsunamis kill more then 700 in Chile

By: Reuters
CONCEPCION, Chile (Reuters) - The death toll from a massive earthquake that struck Chile surged above 700 on Sunday as reports emerged of coastal towns devastated by the tremor and tsunamis that followed.
President Michelle Bachelet said that 708 people were confirmed dead and that the total was likely to rise.
The death toll from Saturday's 8.8-magnitude quake had stood at 400 earlier on Sunday, before state television quoted emergency officials as saying that 350 people were killed in the coastal town of Constitucion, which was hit by a tsunami.
Television images from the fishing port about 350 km (220 miles) southwest of the capital Santiago showed houses destroyed by the quake and a tsunami, which washed large fishing boats onto land and flipped over cars. 

There were similar scenes of devastation in Pelluhue, another coastal town, where cars were tossed on top of shattered houses.
People desperate for food and water ransacked stores in some quake-stricken areas, raising speculation that the government would use martial law to crack down on looters.
Hundreds of thousands of homes and some highways across central Chile were seriously damaged by the quake, dealing a heavy blow to infrastructure in the world's No. 1 copper producer and one of Latin America's most stable economies.
A lack of water, food and fuel sharpened the hardship for the hundreds of thousands of people left homeless, and widespread disruption to the power supply threatened to hamper Chilean industry's recovery.
In the hard-hit city of Concepcion, about 500 km (310 miles) south of Santiago, about 60 people were feared to have been crushed to death in a collapsed apartment block where rescuers worked through the night to find survivors.
"We spent the whole night working, smashing through walls to find survivors. The biggest problem is fuel, we need fuel for our machinery and water for our people," Commander Marcelo Plaza said.
Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse a crowd of looters carrying off food and electrical appliances from a supermarket in Concepcion. Television images showed people stuffing groceries and other goods into shopping trolleys.
"People have gone days without eating," said Orlando Salazar, one of the looters at the supermarket. "The only option is to come here and get stuff for ourselves."
Concepcion's mayor, Jacqueline van Rysselberghe, said the situation was getting "out of control" due to shortages of basic supplies and called for the national government to help.
"We need the army. We can't have people defending their own possession because it will be the law of the strongest," she said.
President Michelle Bachelet said 2 million people were affected by the 8.8-magnitude quake, adding that it would take several days to evaluate the "enormous quantity of damage."
The quake destroyed or damaged 1.5 million homes, buckled roads and toppled bridges, posing a daunting reconstruction challenge for President-elect Sebastian Pinera, who takes office in two weeks.
Crushed cars, fallen power lines and rubble from wrecked buildings littered the streets of Concepcion, which has about 670,000 inhabitants and lies 115 km (70 miles) southwest of the quake's epicenter.
A string of strong aftershocks have rocked the country and one of them rattled buildings in the capital, Santiago, early on Sunday. Thousands of Concepcion residents camped out in tents or makeshift shelters, fearing fresh tremors could topple weakened buildings.
The economic damage from the could be up to $30 billion, equivalent to about 15 percent of gross domestic product, said Eqecat, a firm that helps insurers model catastrophe risks.
Some economists predicted a deep impact on Chile's economy after the quake damaged its industrial and agricultural sectors in the worst-hit regions, possibly putting pressure on its currency.
Two major copper mines shut down by the quake were due to resume operations on Sunday,
Chile's fourth-largest copper mine El Teniente, which accounts for more than 7 percent of national output, and the nearby Andina mine were due to resume operations on Sunday but analysts feared power outages could still curtail supplies from the world's No. 1 producer.
There was no information available on Sunday on two Anglo-American mines where power outages have halted production.
State TV said that Santiago's airport had started to receive international flights for the first time since the quake struck.
The quake triggered tsunami waves that also killed at least four people on Chile's Juan Fernandez islands and caused serious damage to the port town of Talcahuano, flooding streets and lifting fishing boats out of the sea.
Hundreds of thousands of people in Japan, New Zealand, the Philippines and Russia's far eastern Kamchatka Peninsula were told to evacuate ahead of the tsunami, and waves of 1.5 meters (5 feet) hit their coastlines, but there were no immediate reports of injuries or serious damage.
(Additional reporting by Simon Gardner and Alonso Soto in Santiago and London bureau; Writing by Stuart Grudgings and Helen Popper; Editing by Kieran Murray)

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