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Catastrophe down south

Chile earthquake Over 300 killed, 1.5 million displaced.

world Updated: Mar 01, 2010 01:37 IST
GNS

Over 300 people have been killed after a huge earthquake struck Chile on Saturday, destroying tens of thousands of homes and sparking fears of a tsunami in the Pacific.

Pacific nations have been bracing themselves for a tsunami following the 8.8-magnitude quake — with waves reaching Japan, Russia and Pacific islands — although the damage has so far been small.

The Chilean authorities said the official death toll in the country was 214, but they believed the true number was over 300 and would increase.

“We think the real figure tops 300 ... we believe this will continue to grow,” Carmen Fernandez, the head of the National Emergency Agency, said .

Fernandez said 1.5 million Chileans were affected by the disaster, with 500,000 homes severely damaged.

The country’s president, Michelle Bachelet, who leaves office on March 11, declared a “state of catastrophe” in central Chile. “It was a catastrophe of devastating consequences,” she said.

Barack Obama said the US “will be there” if Chile asks for aid — a sentiment echoed by leaders around the world.

Bachelet said that the country had not asked for help, and the Chilean ambassador to the UK said it was prepared to manage on its own.