Devastating Quake Hits Chile, Country Searches for Survivors

AP Photo/ Natacha Pisarenko

Just one and half months after a devastating earthquake hit Haiti, another, measuring an 8.8 magnitude, hit the South American country of Chile this weekend, killing a reported 708 people and leaving 1.5 million without power in the capital of Santiago. Rescuers worked through the night on Saturday to help free people who may be trapped in a 15-story building in Concepcion, about 70 miles from the center of the quake. Adding injury to the rescue efforts, six hospitals collapsed and another two have been severely damaged, making medical aid for survivors even more of a challenge.

Following the quake, a large wave crashed onto the shores of the Chilean islands, killing eight people and leaving eight others reported missing. Chile's defense minister blamed its navy for not issuing a tsunami warning after the earthquake, which could have allowed villagers in the area to flee to higher ground.

"The truth, even if it hurts [is that] a division of the Navy made a mistake," Defense Minister Francisco Vidal told CNN.

On Sunday, what the mainstream media has labeled as "looters"—which are seemingly people who are simply struggling to find food and water—begin to surface in parts of the country. According to CNN, desperate residents searched for water and supplies inside empty and damaged supermarkets. Authorities reportedly used tear gas and water cannons to disperse the crowds.

"We're facing an emergency without parallel in the history of Chile" said current President Michelle Bachelet of the quake that’s tied for the fifth strongest since 1900. "The passage of time has demonstrated that we're facing a catastrophe of unforeseen intensity, one that caused damages that are going to require immense, united efforts from all sectors of the country – private and public," she said.

Chile has received offers of international aid, Bachelet said. The U.S. military and the U.S. Agency for International Development were working to provide communications support in the form of satellite phones, the State Department told CNN. And the UN has said that they’re ready to help. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will also travel to Santiago on Tuesday on a previously scheduled trip through Latin America.

"We will raise Chile," said Chilean President-elect Sebastian Piñera, set to be sworn in this month. "It's not going to be a short task. It's not going to be easy. It will require a lot of effort, a lot of resources and a lot of time."

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