Chile's president says it will take several years to rebuild the country after Saturday's powerful earthquake and devastating tsunami that killed at least 800 people.
Even as Chile's government struggles to deliver emergency supplies to an estimated two million displaced people, President Michelle Bachelet is being pressed to answer difficult questions about long-term reconstruction plans. Asked by a reporter how long it will take to rebuild a vast swath of national territory, she had this response.
"Look, I think [it will take] at the very least the entire term of the next government, or at the very least three years after the next government [comes to power before rebuilding is complete]," she said.
Chilean presidents serve four-year terms. Next week, Ms. Bachelet hands over the reins of power to President-elect Sebastian Pinera, whose inauguration is being overshadowed by the natural disaster that struck the country.
Damage assessment is underway in Chile, but will likely take weeks to complete. Even so, President Bachelet has given a preliminary estimate of the reconstruction price tag, saying it could total $30 billion.
Aid and relief supplies are flowing to the disaster zone, but the relatively slow pace of delivery has frustrated many quake and tsunami survivors.
Meanwhile, Chilean security forces are attempting to maintain order and prevent looting, while also distributing food and water and assisting in search and recovery efforts. President Bachelet is urging patience and national unity.
"We are working with maximum energy and dedication to reach areas affected by the earthquake," she said. "There has to be understanding that we might not be able to get everywhere immediately, due to our nation's geography. But enormous efforts are being made by air, sea and land. We are doing everything in our power to offer support and help. In the meantime, we must all have confidence in Chile."
Chile has received an outpouring of support and pledges of aid from the international community. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to arrive Friday in Chile for a first-hand assessment of the country's humanitarian needs.