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'Chileans undaunted by quake's destruction'

world Updated: Mar 06, 2010 16:52 IST

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon praised Chileans for their "courage and resilience" in the face of last week's massive earthquake, as he arrived in the Chilean capital to offer UN.

Ban made the trip to South America to gain a full picture of the scale of destruction so the United Nations can fashion a package of assistance and coordinate future aid, the UN said.

He met with outgoing President Michelle Bachelet, commending her "extraordinary leadership" and coordination with President-elect Sebastian Pinera to provide immediate relief to quake victims.

"I am very moved to see such strong courage and resilience of the Chilean people," Ban said upon his arrival Friday.

He was met by Chilean Foreign Minister Mariano Fernandez and Alicia Barcena, head of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).

"Chile has been extraordinarily generous in assisting Haiti in its time of need (after the January 12 Port-au-Prince earthquake)," Ban said. "Now is the moment for the UN and the international community to stand with Chile and its people".

"We are ready to help provide any assistance that the Chilean government requests, immediate and long-term," Ban said.

Ban visited Port-au-Prince, capital of Haiti, a few days after the 7-magnitude earthquake that killed more than 230,000 Haitians and destroyed much of the capital.

It remains unclear how many Chileans were killed in the Feb 27 quake, which struck near the country's second-largest city, Concepcion. The government had put the death toll at 803 before dropping the confirmed count to 279 bodies found. The February 27 quake had an 8.8 magnitude.

Ban announced the UN intention to release $10 million from its Central Emergency Response Fund to enable UN agencies to support the Chilean government's provisions of urgent needs in the aftermath of the earthquake.

A joint Chilean-UN working group was set up "to define the priority areas in which to allocate the emergency funds, particularly in health, emergency shelters, education, water and sanitation".

Ban said UN team in Chile will work with the international community to provide emergency relief goods requested by Santiago.

He was to travel Saturday to Concepcion and the adjacent town of Talcahuano, both near the quake's epicentre.