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Bachelet and Ban Appear on Chile Telethon

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Chile's president and the United Nations secretary general have appeared on a telethon in Santiago designed to raise $29 million for relief efforts in earthquake shattered Chile.

President Michelle Bachelet wrote a personal check for the relief drive when she was on the show Friday night.   

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised Chile's quick response to the Haitian earthquake and said "it is only natural" that the international community should stand with the Chilean people in their "time of need."  

Mr. Ban arrived in Chile Friday for a two-day visit to assess damage from the initial deadly 8.8-magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami on February 27.  He has pledged up to $10 million to Chile from a United Nations fund for quake relief.  

On Saturday, he goes to badly-hit city of Concepcion and the port of Talcahuano, which also was devastated.

Powerful aftershocks continued to rock Chile Friday.  The strongest aftershock had a 6.6 magnitude and rattled south-central Chile.  In Concepcion, which was closest to the epicenter of the first quake, some residents ran into the streets as the ground shook.  Numerous aftershocks have been reported since last month's quake.

Separately, the Chilean navy fired the head of the agency in charge of issuing catastrophic warnings, saying there was a breakdown in its tsunami alert system.  

Meanwhile, Chile's U.N. ambassador says reconstruction will cost about $30 billion.

In a briefing with reporters Friday at U.N. headquarters in New York, Ambassador Heraldo Muñoz said the agriculture and wine industry alone lost $280 million in the initial earthquake.  He said forestry and fishing enterprises were also devastated.

In a related development, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution expressing solidarity with Chile following the earthquake.  The measure expresses strong support for U.S. aid to Chile, if requested, for rescue and recovery efforts and encourages the international community to assist with relief efforts.

President Bachelet has said it could take at least three or four years to rebuild the country.  Ambassador Muñoz said that while the devastation is greater than previously estimated, the death toll is actually lower than the figure of about 800 that has been reported.

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

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