Death toll in Chile rises to 723 after powerful earthquake, tsunamis

March 2nd, 2010 - 12:39 am ICT by BNO News  

Chile earthquake SANTIAGO (BNO NEWS) — At least 723 people died in Chile after Saturday’s powerful 8.8-magnitude earthquake and the tsunamis, officials said on Monday.

More than 500 people died only in the Maule region near the epicenter, emergency officials told local media on Monday afternoon, as tsunamis devastated several coastal cities.

The 8.8-magnitude earthquake, one of the strongest in modern history, left entire communities destroyed and more than 30 dead in Greater Santiago, Chile’s capital, where people were trying to return to normal life.

Many people are missing in the tsunami-hit town of Concepcion, according to its Mayor Hugo Tilleria. TV footage showed parts of the city washed away after the giant waves, with cars overturned and houses destroyed. In some parts of the city, the waves left only sand where, until Saturday, there were houses, parks and streets.

The seaside resort of Pelluhue was washed away also, it had 1,000 residents. The Juan Fernández islands were also hit by a giant wave and several people were reported missing there.

Several regions were on Monday without electricity and water for a third day, similar to Concepcion, where looters ransacked several stores on Sunday after the government was unable to send aid. The government imposed a curfew in quake-hit areas of Concepcion and Maule on Sunday.

Santiago’s International airport was still closed on Monday. Airport’s chief told TVN that the terminal is expected to return to normal work “in the next days”. The airport received several “special flights” on Sunday, and at least one flight from Colombia on Monday.

The massive earthquake was also followed by a series of aftershocks, which may continue for weeks or even months. The strongest aftershock was a magnitude 6.9 earthquake, which struck 130 miles of Concepcion around 3.01 a.m. local time on Saturday.

The USGS said on its website that a large vigorous aftershock sequence can be expected from this earthquake. The 2010 Chile earthquake is the second largest quake in the past 20 years, behind the 2004 Indian Ocean 9.1-magnitude quake.

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