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Clinton Delivers Satellite Phones As Chile Earthquake, Tsunami Recovery Continues

As part of her trip to Latin America, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton handed out 25 satellite phones on Tuesday in Chile and said the U.S. would help “in any way the government of Chile asks us to,” the Washington Times reports (3/3).

“Clinton toured an area of the airport where tea, flour and other supplies were being loaded into boxes for shipment to parts of the country where supplies are short,” the Associated Press/New York Times reports. “Meeting with the country’s president-elect [Sebastian Pinera], Clinton said she is sure Chile is handling the disaster well. ‘There is no doubt in my mind, as we stand here at an airport that thankfully is functioning and relief flights are coming in, that Chile is prepared, is dealing with this massive disaster and will be on the road to an even better recovery in the future,’ she said.”

On Monday, Paul Simons, the U.S. ambassador to Chile, said the embassy is checking in with the foreign ministry in Santiago “on a continuous basis to see what exactly it is that Chile needs and to match that up with some of the resources that we have available,” according to the news service (3/2). 

The search for survivors continued on Tuesday, according to the Wall Street Journal, which reports on rescue efforts at a “15-story apartment building,” which was thrown on “its side” during the earthquake. “Relief efforts around the country, the subject of much criticism by desperate residents, were starting to accelerate. Television images showed a helicopter laden with supplies arriving at Constitucion, which was devastated by a tsunami shortly after the quake,” the newspaper writes (Esposito/Abarca/Fick, 3/2).

The Chilean government dispatched “helicopters and boats to speed up the delivery of food to hungry survivors on Tuesday as the death toll rose to nearly 800,” Reuters reports. Soldiers were sent in “to restore order in Concepcion, Chile’s second-largest city, which was placed under curfew for 18 hours a day after looters raided stores and burned a supermarket. There were no reports of major outbreaks of looting on Tuesday and President Michelle Bachelet said order had been restored in the city, which bore the brunt of the quake along with coastal towns that were also devastated by tsunamis,” according to Reuters.

“Officials estimated that between 100 and 500 people in the city are still missing,” the news service writes (Wade/Badal, 3/2). The WHO said it expects the death toll to increase as communication and transportation capabilities improve and rescue workers are able to access remote communities, CBC News reports (3/2).

Bachelet said total damage estimates could be as high as $30 billion, “with about 500,000 homes destroyed and serious damage done to bridges, roads, ports and public transportation stations,” according to the New York Times. “Although a large aid effort was under way, tens of thousands of Chileans affected by the quake that struck early Saturday remain with little or no food, drinking water and shelter, and reports of looting and other lawlessness continued,” the newspaper writes (Thompson/Lacey, 3/2).

Reuters reports in another story on the rescue and recovery effort in Constitucion, which “suffered a twin catastrophe on Saturday, when a massive earthquake flattened much of the seaside town’s historic center before huge waves swept in, killing many who had survived the temblor.” According to the news service, “[r]esidents say they have struggled to find food or water since the quake and any help that has arrived has been slow and inadequate. Several hundred people lined up at a food pantry on Tuesday, and the army said it had calmed unrest in the town. Some people had broken into supermarkets to steal food, water and diapers for their babies” (Wade, 3/2).

In related news, the Miami Herald examines the aid response in the Maule region, populated by small resort towns along Chile’s coast. “Communication is such here that residents believe that the disaster hit only them, that they’re going through a nightmare that nobody else has suffered. … With bridges out and roads ruined, residents along an enormous swath of coast say they have yet to receive any aid from the government,” the newspaper writes.

“Bachelet ordered a contingent of 14,000 army and navy troops to go to quake and tsunami affected areas, deliver much-needed aid and quell rampant looting. … Only on Monday did military units arrive in Constitucion, the city closest to these resort towns, to install a satellite-communications station for the police. It was small help for a city where the death toll is almost 400, the number of homeless is at least 1,000 and where practically the entire infrastructure is gone” (Guzman/Robles, 3/3).

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