Strong aftershocks rock Chile

Government urges calm as fresh tremors shake areas already battered by quake.

chile quake aftermath flag
Official estimates put the number of deaths at more than 800 so far [AFP]

Strong aftershocks have struck Chile again, rocking the battered town of Concepcion and sending panicked residents fleeing.

Soldiers deployed in the city urged people to evacuate following Wednesday’s temblors and the authorities issued a tsunami warning.

Reporting from Concepcion, Al Jazeera’s Lucia Newman said there was pandemonium everywhere as people rushed to get to higher ground even though the city is quite far away from the sea, making the possibility of a tsunami very remote.

Call for calm

No damage or injuries were recorded in the aftershocks that came as Michelle Bachelet, the outgoing president, called for calm and asked people to stop hoarding supplies and help with relief efforts.

In video

Al Jazeera’s Teresa Bo reports Constitucion residents’ complaints against the government

Speaking in the Chilean capital, Santiago, on Wednesday, she said: “We don’t have shortage. There is enough food, so everyone has to remain calm in places where stores are closed.

“We will replenish the stores. Banks are beginning to open … that is to say we will return to relative normality,” she said on national television.

Bachelet’s statement comes in the face of criticism that her government has been slow to respond to one of the world’s most powerful earthquakes in a century.

Chilean emergency officials and the military have blamed each other for not clearly warning coastal villages of tsunamis immediately after Saturday’s quake, angering survivors who lost relatives and friends in the massive waves.

The number of those killed by Saturday’s magnitude 8.8 earthquake and the tsunami that followed has risen to more than 800, and is likely to increase as rescue workers continue search and recovery efforts amid the rubble of collapsed buildings.

Hundreds of people are still missing after the quake, which left an estimated 1.5 million homes damaged.

A curfew remained in place in Concepcion following Wednesday’s aftershocks, with thousands of troops patrolling the streets in devastated areas to keep order and oversee aid distribution.

Military trucks and helicopters delivered food and water, while rescue crews searched coastal hamlets north of the city for any survivors trapped in the debris.

Insecurity remains

Our correspondent said there was a strong sense of insecurity across the city four days after the initial quake.

In video

Al Jazeera’s Lucia Newman finds out why some survivors have resorted to looting

Widespread looting had subsided, our correspondent said, but there was still lawlessness, especially after dark, with gangs descending on some poor neighbourhoods late on Tuesday, triggering gunshots and compelling the army to move in.

In Constitucion, one of several coastal villages which were nearly wiped out by the disaster, some reports put the number of missing people as high as 500.

The town, with a population of about 40,000, accounts for almost half of the official death toll.
And Bachelet’s plea for people not to hog supplies appears to have fallen on deaf ears in the town where prices for foodstuffs such as flour and sugar have skyrocketed partly because of hoarding and looting.

No damage or injuries were reported in Chile’s second-biggest city.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies