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Chile to UN: Destruction Greater, Death Toll Lower Than Estimated


A powerful 6.6 aftershock rocked Concepcion, Chile, Friday, the same day U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited the nation. Back at U.N. headquarters in New York, Chile's ambassador to the U.N. says the damage from Saturday's quake is even greater than estimated, but the death toll is lower.

Chile's U.N. Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz says Chile is just coming to understand the depths of the devastation wrought by last Saturday's 8.8 earthquake, which he says is one of the five strongest quakes ever recorded in the world. "The destruction is much greater than we had suspected at the beginning. It includes about two million homeless people in my country, including women and children; the loss of major infrastructure, from naval shipyards that have disappeared to churches to homes, buildings, both private and government," he said.

Chile's President Michelle Bachelet has said reconstruction could cost about about $30 billion. Ambassador Munoz said the nation's agriculture and wine industries alone lost $280 million in Saturday's earthquake, while forestry and fishing enterprises were also devastated.

But, Muñoz says, while the devastation is greater than previously estimated, the death toll is actually lower than figures suggested. "There has been a revision because at some point they were adding the disappeared to those confirmed dead. So, the figure, fortunately will be less than originally expected....What has been reported is about 800 people dead. It will be less than that," he said.

He says perhaps Chile's strict building codes, established with the region's history of quakes in mind, helped to prevent massive loss of life.

Muñoz held Friday's news conference at the United Nations as the U.N. Secretary-General visited Chile. Mr. Ban's two-day visit includes meetings with Chilean President Bachelet and President-elect Sebastián Piñera, as well as visits to the hardest hit areas.

Muñoz says the U.N. Chief will help to raise not only awareness but funds for those devastated by the earthquake. "He will also participate in a telethon, a 24-hour telethon that is being organized by an important Chilean figure, Don Francisco, who is very well known in television," he said.

Muñoz says the goal is to raise $30 million in the 24-hour period.

Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York, spoke alongside Muñoz at the press conference. She highlighted other relief efforts and groups, such as Un Techo Para Chile - an organization that builds houses for the poor. "Un Techo Para Chile - a Roof for Chile. Well, I think that is the key of this press conference today. We must now rally and support the president quickly and all the Chilean people to make this possible," she said.

She says she plans to visit Chile next month with wealthy donors in an effort to raise funds.

Ferguson, a mother of two, also offered more details on an initiative she announced last month. The duchess says she plans to start a philanthropic social-networking group called Mothers' Army. She said poor mothers could tell Mothers' Army about their needs. Ferguson said she would then approach high-profile mothers, such as U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, to discuss ways to provide assistance.

In Washington Friday, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution expressing concern, sympathies, and solidarity on behalf of the people of the United States to the people and government of Chile following

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