U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton says the United States is preparing an extensive aid package for Chile after Saturday's powerful earthquake that killed more than 700 people and displaced an estimated two million. Clinton made a brief stop in Santiago to meet with Chile's president, who has pledged swift delivery of food and supplies to those in need - and a crackdown on looting and lawlessness.
Secretary of State Clinton cut short what was initially planned as a day-long visit to Chile, meeting with President Michelle Bachelet at Santiago's main airport for about an hour.
Clinton personally handed Ms. Bachelet one of 25 satellite phones the United States is donating to Chile, the first installment of a substantial U.S. aid package for the South American nation.
"We are sending eight water purification units," Clinton said. "They are on their way. We have identified a mobile field hospital unit with surgical capabilities that is ready to go. We are working to fill the need for autonomous dialysis machines. We are ready to purchase and send electricity generators, medical supplies, and are working to identify and send portable bridges so that some of the remote places that lost their bridges will be able to be reconnected to the country."
Clinton noted that Chile dispatched search and rescue teams to Haiti after January's devastating earthquake in the Caribbean nation, and said the United States will do all it can to assist Chile in its hour of need.
President Bachelet thanked Clinton and the United States. She stressed her government's determination to assist those in need.
She said she wants to reach every location as quickly as possible, every corner of the country that has been affected by the disaster to provide what people need.
But for Chileans who have gone days without food, fresh drinking water, and shelter, that aid cannot come quickly enough. Like many coastal communities, Constitucion was dealt a double-blow by the earthquake, which shook the town violently for more than a minute and then unleashed ocean waves that caused even more damage and loss of life.
Many residents say the disaster left them destitute.
One woman says everyone is suffering, particularly the elderly. She says the entire town is desperate.
A man says he lacks milk and diapers for his children. He says food and water are urgently needed.
President Bachelet has appealed for patience and understanding, saying help is on the way, but the government has huge logistical challenges to overcome. In the meantime, she has ordered additional security forces to the disaster zone, saying looting and lawlessness must end and that the government will act with what she termed the "severity necessary" to prevent crime.
She says those who do not understand the need for order will be met by the law, because these actions cannot be tolerated.
Authorities in Concepcion, Chile's second-most populous city, instituted a curfew to curb widespread looting. At the same time, some residents have taken security matters into their own hands, forming "self-defense" units to protect homes and local businesses.
Chile has received pledges of support from the United Nations and many international organizations. Nations throughout the Americas, as well as the European Union, Japan and China have also promised assistance.