Monday, March 01, 2010

Chile earthquake toll expected to surpass 1,000...

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News | International2 Mar 2010 17:06| ho

Chile quake toll expected to pass 1,000:

The official quake death toll in Chile is over 700, but that is expected to soon pass 1,000 as more bodies are discovered

A World Vision worker in Chile is predicting a dramatic rise in the earthquake's death toll.

The official count is just over 700, but rescuers are making grim discoveries by the hour and say the toll could hit 1,000 soon.

Michael Black from the aid agency in the capital Santiago says it is still difficult to communicate with the worst hit town of Concepcion, with telecommunications down and roads torn up.

"The Pan-American Highway that connects Chile from north to south is cut down in several places. Both the airports, in Santiago and the main airport in Concepcion, are severely damaged and down."

World Vision works with between 25,000 and 30,000 children in the region, and the only way to find out what is happening to them in the worst hit city of Concepcion is to fly in by helicopter. Mr Black says looting has become a very serious issue.

"Last night the Government decided to call for a curfew. As of 9pm there were 1,500 military forces in the city of Concepcion guarding especially supermarkets."

Residents have no electricity, no water and no food. Even if they have money, there is nowhere to buy food. Mr Black says World Vision hopes it can start getting food and water in by tomorrow.

New Zealand businessman and motorcycle adventurer Gareth Morgan has arrived in the Chilean capital of Santiago. He says despite the city being quite away from the epicentre, it has suffered a lot of damage, with infrastructure hit hard, particularly water supplies.

"Pedestrian walkways across the motorways have all collapsed. So they're all lying on their side. You see four storey retail buildings with the whole front just fallen off."

Mr Morgan is now heading to Concepcion, but says the roads are so badly damaged it may not be possible.

Officials are now trying to contact 20 New Zealanders thought to be in Chile and not heard from since the earthquake. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has contacted around around 250 others to confirm they are safe. It says communication networks in Chile remain disrupted but are improving.

Acknowledgements: 2010 NZCity, NewsTalkZB

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