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Search For Survivors Continues After Chile Massive Quake


Rescue workers are tearing through the rubble in search of survivors in Chile Sunday, a day after a massive earthquake shattered the country's central region.

The 8.8 magnitude quake struck the South American country Saturday in the early morning hours.

Many Chileans have continued to stay out of their homes because of the jolting series of aftershocks, some as strong as 6.9 magnitude.

The quake has killed more than 300 people and damaged as many as 1.5 million homes. Officials say the death toll is expected to rise.

Rescuers are working to reach about a 100 people trapped in an apartment building that collapsed in Concepcion, the country's second-largest city. The main rescue operation is centered in the city, about 100 kilometers from the epicenter of the quake.

Looters ransacked stores in Concepcion Sunday, stealing both food and electrical appliances. Police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse a crowd of looters at one supermarket.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet declared a "state of catastrophe" in central Chile, where the quake toppled buildings, overturned cars and brought down power and phone lines.

Bridges fell and many streets were covered with rubble. Fires were reported. Several hospitals collapsed.

The president has not asked for assistance from other countries, but several nations have offered to send aid.

Speaking at the Vatican Sunday, Pope Benedict said he is praying for the people of Chile and other populations in the Pacific tested by the calamity.

The earthquake has raised a daunting first challenge for billionaire Sebastian Pinera, who was elected Chile's president in January. He takes office in two weeks.

Chile's children who were preparing to return to school Monday at the end of their summer break have had their vacation extended another week.

In the capital, Santiago, officials closed the international airport because of damage.

Argentina and other parts of South America also felt the earthquake.

While cell phone communication was knocked out by the quake, many people used social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook to reach out to friends and loved ones.

The U.S. Geological Survey says an earthquake with a magnitude of 8 or more is classified as a "great" earthquake that can cause tremendous damage.

The biggest earthquake ever recorded struck the same area of Chile in 1960. It had a magnitude of 9.5 and also set off a tsunami, which had devastating effects in Pacific countries including Japan and the Philippines, where at least 1,600 people were killed.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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