Chile Earthquake Update: 2 Million Homeless

Chile’s 8.8 magnitude earthquake early yesterday morning has wreaked havoc on the country that already held the unfortunate record of being the home of the strongest earthquake on record, a 9.5 magnitude, now takes second place as well. Today we hear more than 700 are dead, 2 million are homeless, one million buildings are damaged, 500,000 of them homes, and the cities are dealing with downed bridges and upheaved highways. The video below is raw footage from a security camera as the quake hit. Update 3-3-10 795 reported dead this morning. Update 3-3-10 see reports of a 6.3 aftershock in Concepcion here.

 Chile – raw security camera footage

Aftershocks in massive numbers and strong magnitudes continue to rock the people fighting for survival. Some 90 aftershocks have been recorded, with the worst being 6.2, 6.0, 6.9, 6.1, 6.0, with many in-between measuring close to 6.0., and one today measuring 6.1.

In the coastal areas, where damage is heavy from both tremblors and tsunami waters, people are desparate for food and clean water, and looting has begun.

 In Constitucion, located near the city of Concepcion and the quake’s epicenter, 350 people died as tremblors and tsunami waves hit the town. Constitucion, located about 220 miles south of the capital city of Santiago. Large fishing boats were swept onto land and cars flipped in this seaside town of about 38,000.

Pelluhu, Chile a popular seaside resort with a population of about 1,000 is said to be destroyed. Summer is underway in Chile and the town may have had many more tourists when the quake hit. Jim Hoft at GatewayPundit has some awesome photos of Pellehu.

Concepcion, a city of about 690,000 regionally, 200,000 in the city proper, is located only about 70 miles from the epicenter. The downtown area is said to be mostly rubble. There is no power.  The country’s death toll was boosted this morning as it is feared 60 – 100 people may be found dead in the collapse of a new 15-story apartment building in Concepcion.

Concepcion, Chile – new apartment building

It took rescuers 24-hours to get 16 people out alive and another 6 dead. Rescue efforts were stalled as police fired tear gas at looters. In photos linked below, you can see a rescue using a cable to slide a young man down to safety. President Bachelet said the list of missing is growing.

She [President Bachelet] signed a decree giving the military control over security in the province of Concepcion, where looters were pillaging supermarkets, gas stations, pharmacies and banks.

Today, large waves were continuing their assault near Concepcion in the Bio-Bio region.

President Bachelet announced that she is sending army troops into Concepcion to help restore order and assist in rescue and recovery:

Crowds overran supermarkets in the port city of Concepcion, which sustained widespread damage, and were making off with food, water and diapers but also television sets. Several banks also were hit. Police in armored vehicles sprayed looters with water cannons and made several arrests, mostly of young men.

The Juan Fernandez Islands are reporting dead and missing. On Robinson Crusoe Island, the largest of the Juan Fernandez Islands, a tsunami surged over two miles inland into San Juan Bautista village where at least 5 are dead and 11 missing.

A Concepcion resident said he an his daughter escaped their building “in terror amid shattering glass and an ungodly roar,” because he was able to throw clothing on the floor to protect their feet as they exited the nightmare that was once their home.

For anyone in an earthquake-prone-area (like my son), I’m struck by the constant advice to always keep shoes close to your bed, or wherever you are resting shoeless, as cuts are the major cause of amputations after an earthquake.

In Santiago:

…the century-old national Fine Arts Museum was badly damaged, and an apartment building’s two-story parking lot pancaked, smashing about 50 cars whose alarms rang incessantly.

A car dangled from a shattered overpass and overturned vehicles lay scattered below. “I can now say in all surety that seat belts save lives in automobiles,” said Cristian Alcaino, who survived the fall in his car.

Though most modern buildings survived, a church bell tower collapsed and several hospitals were evacuated because of damage.

Santiago’s Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport was closed, with smashed windows, collapsed ceilings, and destroyed walkways in the passenger terminals. The capital’s subway was also shut, and hundreds of buses were stuck behind a damaged bridge.

Marco Vidal, a program director for Grand Circle Travel traveling with a group of 34 Americans, was on the 19th floor of the Crowne Plaza Santiago Hotel when the quake struck.

Bachelet called for damage assessment experts, field hospitals, temporary bridges, and fresh water and water purification equipment.

To strip away any need for looting, Bachelet announced that essentials on the shelves of major supermakrets would be given away for free, under the supervision of authorities. Troops and police will also distribute food and water, she said.

In the country’s main seaport town of Valparaiso two oil refineries are closed and damage assessment are underway. Elsewhere, Codelco’s copper mining facilities were shutdown just after the quake but are gearing up to restart. Chile is the No. 1 copper-producing country and Codelco is the biggest copper-producing company.

While workers in the U.S. Embassy have been reported “okay” and “all accounted for,” U.S. Ambassador Paul Simons says three Embassy “wardens” in Concepcion have not been in contact.

See some exceptional photos here.

Original Reporting – Related and Background:
Chile 8.8 Devastation – Tsunami Alert