Chile's President Orders Grocery Stores to Give Food Away After Devastating Quake

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has ordered supermarkets to give away basic supplies in an effort to help desperate victims of the devastating earthquake and to control looting that has broken out in some cities.

Looters had already stripped stores bare in some parts of the country, taking food, water, milk, diapers and other essential supplies, as well as TVs, gasoline and some luxury items.

Many Chileans said the wreckage left them with no choice.

"I have a baby and we have nothing to eat," said one woman, who had resorted to looting from a grocery store for supplies.

An estimated 2 million people were put on the streets and hundreds killed by Saturday's magnitude 8.8 earthquake, one of the largest to hit the quake-prone country since a record 9.5 magnitude struck Chile in 1960.

VIDEO: Death Toll Rises in Chile as Looting Hampers Rescue Efforts

The official death toll stands at 723, the National Emergency Office said today. The U.N. World Health Organization said that figure is expected to rise.

"This tragedy, this problem, is going to continue in the next couple of days," Chile's ambassador to the United States Jose Goni said at a press conference in Washington today.

In Chile's second-largest city, Concepcion, the streets were still dangerous on Monday night, even after some 10,000 Chilean troops were deployed to restore order in hard-hit areas. People carried sticks and open flames as they roamed the streets, looting from stores.

Officials planned to enforce a curfew for a second night, requiring permission slips for people who had reason to be out later than a certain hour. Dozens of people were arrested for violating the first night of the curfew, and police turned to tear gas and water cannons to the control desperate crowds.

"I feel abandoned," Spanish professor Eduardo Aundez told The Associated Press as he watched the looting. "We believe the government didn't take the necessary measures in time, and now supplies of food and water are going to be much more complicated."

On Sunday, some looters rigged a system to siphon gasoline from underground tanks using tubes made of bamboo and plastic, the AP reported.

Concepcion's mayor told Chilean media that food began arriving in the city today to feed hungry victims, though water and electricity supplies were still disrupted.

Signs of Life: Knocking Heard from Apartment Building Debris

As authorities worked to control the looting in Concepcion, there were hopeful signs for the search and rescue effort at a 15-story apartment building in the city that toppled over during the quake. Rescuers heard knocking from victims trapped in the debris, the AP reported, and rescuers have started drilling holes through the debris to reach them.

So far, 25 survivors were pulled from the building's rubble along with the bodies of eight who died in the collapse. Dozens of people were still thought to be trapped inside the 70-unit structure.

Just one of the dramatic stories to emerge from the rubble -- a father and his 7-year-old daughter hugged one another and fell 13 flights as the building collapsed, but survived the fall.

Traveling in Uruguay on a previously scheduled trip to South America, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton promised that when she arrives in Santiago on Tuesday she will bring supplies, including 20 satellite phones and a technician.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...