Iquique(Chile): Life was gradually returning to normal in quake-hit Chile officials said today, with power restored to a majority of homes that lost electricity during this week`s massive 8.2 magnitude temblor.
Tuesday`s earthquake killed six people and forced thousands to evacuate, especially in coastal areas vulnerable to flooding and tsunamis.
Now, three days later, northern Chile had power and other basic services well on the way to being fully restored, according to regional power companies.
Officials said water service also was running again in many areas that had seen disruptions.
General Miguel Alfonso, head of the disaster zone, said water service was at nearly normal level in most areas, and that he expected normal food and energy distribution will be possible within about three weeks.
Recurring aftershocks have intruded, however.
A series of smaller, but still powerful quakes have shaken the country since Tuesday -- including a 7.6-magnitude temblor on Wednesday that forced thousands to flee their homes again.
Many families still slept outside yesterday and today, and were likely to continue to do so, as the aftershocks continue to rattle the country.
Officials said the hardest hit victims from Tuesday`s quakes were inhabitants of desert towns and villages who reside in the highland plateaus where water sometimes is already scarce.
The fragile construction of dwellings in these areas puts residents at greater risk from building collapse during a quake, they said.
President Michelle Bachelet`s new government, meanwhile, issued a warning to those seeking to profit from the misfortune, vowing aggressive prosecution against speculators.
Bachelet also has deployed troops to deter looting, but her government said no arrests had been made as of early today.
Residents of Iquique, a city of some 180,000 people which was hardest hit by the quake, had complained of price gouging as they tried to buy water and staple food products.