Looters canvas devastated Chile

By ABC Lisa Millar

Looters canvas devastated Chile
Hundreds of looters have been detained in earthquake-hit Chile, where troops have been forced to fire tear gas to stop mobs from pillaging shops and homes.

Efforts to deal with the aftermath of the earthquake are being hampered by the need to deploy large numbers of police and security forces to stop the looting.

Meanwhile, there are desperate attempts to rescue dozens of people believed trapped in an apartment building that toppled during the massive earthquake.

Using jackhammers and drills, crews have been trying to force their way inside the apartment block in Concepcion, the nearest city to the epicentre of the earthquake.

They are still hearing knocking from people trapped inside the 70-unit building.

An estimated 500,000 buildings were damaged or destroyed by the quake and 2 million people have been left homeless.

Many of the estimated 700 dead were in coastal regions which were swamped by the tsunami that followed the quake.

Defence Minister Francisco Vidal said the navy failed in not sounding the alarm sooner.

“The truth, even if it hurts, is that a part of the navy made a mistake,” he said.

The army has taken to the streets to stop the looters ransacking stores across the city.

One man taking away bags of flour said he needed food.

“This what is going to help me. Each person thinks what they think, and we do what we have to do,” he said.

But many of those arrested were caught taking more than food.

One hundred and fifty people have been detained for breaking the city’s curfew.

In Santiago, more than 400 kilometres to the north, US ambassador to Chile Paul Simons says the situation is calm.

“In our area here around Santiago … life has largely returned to normal,” he said.

“The Government is up and running, the stock exchange is running, the newspapers are out.”

As the world offers aid to the victims of the massive quake, the experts are still amazed more damage and deaths did not occur.

The Chilean earthquake released nearly 1,000 times more energy than the one that struck Haiti.

In Haiti the death toll is estimated to be about 220,000 people but in Chile it is just over 700.

Bilham University of Colorado seismologist Professor Roger says there are a number of reasons for the difference.

“The Haiti earthquake happened at five in the afternoon when most people should have been out of doors and this earthquake happened in the early hours of the morning when everyone was in their dwellings,” he said.

“The damage that has now occurred is likely from foundation failure, unexpected long-period shaking to large structures.”

2008 Australian Broadcasting Corporation. All Rights Reserved.


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