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UN pledges aid to quake-hit Chile
Ban Ki-moon tours central Chile as first shipment of food aid arrives week after quake.
Last Modified: 06 Mar 2010 17:41 GMT
Residents ran to open spaces as a 6.6-magnitude aftershock rattled the city of Concepcion [Reuters]

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, has renewed a pledge to provide international aid to Chile one week after a massive earthquake struck the South American country.

Ban toured the hard-hit city of Concepcion on Saturday, a day after arriving in the country in an effort to show solidarity with the people.

"The Chilean government is asking for international aid and we will give it," he said.

"Your people were generous enough to rush to Haiti when it was hit, now it is the moment for the international community to stand with the Chilean people.

"I can feel all this, for your loss, for your struggle."

Food distribution

Ban spoke as the first shipment of food from the United Nations' World Food Programme arrived in Chile in response to the government's request for help.

"This is the first shipment of 70 tonnes (of food)," the Reuters news agency quoted Francisco Espejo, a WFP representative, as saying.

in depth
Volunteers help Chile quake victims

"The total is to help 35,000 children over the next five days, giving them portions that total 480 calories.

"We are channelling the aid jointly with national organizations that will ensure an adequate distribution throughout the most affected zones."

The food distribution came a day after powerful aftershocks rattled buildings and sent terrified residents fleeing into the streets in Concepcion.

Fears of additional damage in the tremors before dawn on Friday led officials to evacuate some patients from the regional hospital.

The strongest of the aftershocks was a magnitude 6.6.

Death toll revised

Officials were still struggling to determine the death toll of the magnitude-8.8 quake, as well as the damage to roads, ports and hospitals.

Disaster officials announced they had miscounted scores of missing people who later turned up alive.

Officials on Friday said they had now identified 452 victims, though they did not give a number for unidentified bodies or missing people.

Doubts over the death toll are likely to persist, partly because an undetermined number of victims were washed out to sea in the ensuing tsunamis and some bodies may never be recovered.

Chilean official sacked

Meanwhile, the government said on Friday that it had fired the head of its Oceanography service, saying he had failed to provide clear warning of the deadly tsunami that followed last Saturday's quake. 

Mariano Rojas, the chief of Oceanography, was removed from his post on Friday, and the Navy launched an investigation into "the decision process after the natural catastrophe," an official statement said.

Port captains in several towns issued their own warnings, but a national alert never came, and some say that failure led to deaths.

Al Jazeera's Lucia Newman, reporting from Concepcion, said Rojas was seen as being the person most responsible for the tragedy that ensued.

"In the chain of events, it was the Navy that had to sound the alarm and say, 'Yes, there is a tsunami coming' and [instead] they kept saying, 'No there is no imminent danger yet'," she said.

"Luckily thousands of people didn't believe it [and] many people took to higher ground. But on the coastal areas there were also hundreds of people vacationing that didn't know where to go and who perished or are still missing at his hour.

"That commander is seen as being the person most responsible and [people believe] that many lives would have been saved if he had given the notice in time."

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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