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US Military Sends Medical Personnel to Chile

The U.S. military has sent medical personnel to Chile to assist in humanitarian operations following last month's 8.8 magnitude earthquake.

The U.S. Southern Command said in a statement Tuesday that 63 medical personnel are among 84 airmen who will be in Chile. They will operate out of Angol, southeast of Concepcion, which was the city closest to the epicenter of the February 27 quake and suffered considerable damage.

Military officials say the medical support team will be equipped to perform surgeries and provide services that include radiological, pharmaceutical, dental and other work. The team will join other relief activities already in progress.

The U.S. Agency for International Development is funding the deployment.

Separately, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Tuesday nearly doubled its aid appeal for Chile to about $13 million. The Red Cross said the funds will provide more comprehensive assistance to a greater number of families.

Last week, the aid organization called for $6.4 million for relief efforts.

Separately, a new poll released Tuesday shows the popularity of Chile's outgoing president, Michelle Bachelet, remains high, despite some criticism of her government's response to the earthquake. The survey shows 84 percent approve of her performance in office.

Ms. Bachelet leaves office Thursday, when she hands power to Sebastian Pinera.

Meanwhile, Tuesday was the last day of a three-day national mourning period for the hundreds of people killed in the quake. National flags have been flying at half-staff in honor of the victims.

The government has been struggling to come up with an accurate death toll. Authorities already have lowered the official number of people killed to 452 from just over 800. Authorities say they will add victims to the count only after their remains have been positively identified.

In a related development, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon briefs the General Assembly on Chile Wednesday. Mr. Ban visited Chile last week to assess the quake damage.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.