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Aid Trickles to Chilean Quake Survivors

  • Michael Bowman

Aid and relief supplies are flowing to survivors of Saturday's devastating earthquake in Chile, where the death toll stands at nearly 800 and is expected to go higher.

Days after the magnitude 8.8 earthquake and subsequent tsunami, aid has begun to flow to an estimated two million displaced people. Trucks are carrying food, water, and supplies to municipalities that can be reached by land. Chile's military has begun airlifts to remote towns and those cut off from the rest of the country due to collapsed bridges and impassable roads.

The trickle of aid is welcome, but grief and desperation have bred anger and resentment among many quake survivors.

In one ruined coastal village, a man complains no one from the government has arrived to reassure the people or provide anything.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has acknowledged logistical challenges in mounting the relief effort, and asked for people's patience and understanding.

Meanwhile, in Concepcion and other municipalities, the arduous task of damage assessment is underway.

Civil engineers, fire fighters, and others are examining homes and buildings that sustained damage in Saturday's temblor, and are marking outdoor walls to indicate whether the structures can be salvaged, and whether it is safe for people to go inside. Fireman Rodrigo Sepulveda:

He says his teams are evaluating homes and stores, so that people do not face additional peril from aftershocks, many of which, he notes, are violent.

Recent days have seen the death toll rise steadily, with reports of heavy loss of life in seaside communities that were jolted by the earthquake and then struck by high ocean waves. Tuesday, Chilean naval officials admitted that they were late in issuing tsunami warnings after the earthquake, and that the delay may have cost lives.

Navy Admiral Edmundo Gonzalez:

The admiral said, in all honesty, the navy shares in the responsibility for the loss of life, and the navy deeply regrets this. He said President Bachelet did everything correctly, asking for technical information after the earthquake, and that the navy was not clear enough in its response.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as well as Peruvian President Alan Garcia visited Chile on Tuesday, bringing relief equipment and promises of additional aid.

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