Toll in Chile quake rises to 76 (Fourth Lead)

Saturday, February 27, 2010

SANTIAGO - Chilean authorities reported that at least 76 people had been killed in an 8.8-point earthquake that also inflicted major damage on the South American country early Saturday.

“There are 76 confirmed dead,” Deputy Interior Minister Patricio Rosende said. “We have had a major incident such as one not seen for years.”

As the extent of the damage around the country became more apparent several hours after the quake struck at 3.34 a.m. (1204 IST) some 90 km north-east of Concepcion, it was feared the toll would go yet higher.

After the first quake, the country was then shaken by several aftershocks.

Interior Minister Edmundo Perez Yoma described major problems in establishing communications with Concepcion.

Earlier, President Michelle Bachelet went to the national emergency centre to help in planning for relief efforts. Officials issued an appeal to people to stay in their homes.

Local media reported that buildings had been damaged in Santiago, located about 320 km north of the epicentre.

Among the damage reports, telephone and power lines were downed in some areas, and Santiago’s international airport was damaged and closed down until further notice.

Television images at the airport showed a collapsed passenger bridge and roofing material strewn about.

Sections of a new highway bridge in Santiago also collapsed, while road connections between the capital and the more seriously-damaged regions in the southern part of the country were cut off. The country’s mobile phone network had also broken down.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a warning for Chile and Peru, and a less-urgent tsunami watch for Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Antarctica.

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