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Chileans scramble for supplies after new quake

AFP | Last Updated: Friday, April 4, 2014 - 11:14

Iquique: Chileans desperate for supplies stood in long lines outside shops on Thursday after strong aftershocks from a deadly 8.2-magnitude earthquake forced them to spend another night out in the cold.

After six people were killed in late Tuesday`s earthquake, northern Chile was rocked by a powerful 7.6-magnitude aftershock Wednesday night, forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes once more.

Yet another one with a magnitude of 6.1 hit late Thursday, off the coast at a depth of 20 kilometers (30 miles), according to the US Geological Survey. The epicenter was 76 km (47 miles) southeast of the northern city of Iquique.
President Michelle Bachelet, who was assessing damage from the first jolt, was among those forced to flee as the latest trembler sowed terror among already exhausted and nervous residents in the earthquake-prone region.

The quake Wednesday struck in the Pacific Ocean at 11:43 pm (0243 GMT Thursday), 19 kilometers (12 miles) south of Iquique, the US Geological Survey said.

There were no reports of new fatalities or major damage and authorities lifted a tsunami alert after two hours. Peru to the north did the same.

Residents in Iquique, who now live in fear of more aftershocks, queued up to buy supplies in the city of 180,000 people.

Some 1,500 people stood in front of a supermarket and cash machines, while drivers lined up to fill their cars` fuel tanks.
Residents reported cases of price gouging, with the cost of bread and water doubling.

Prosecutors ordered the arrest of shopkeepers who inflate prices. Bachelet has deployed troops to the area to deter any looting.

"We are now living without light in some areas and without water for two days," said Mirna Mela, a resident of Iquique. "Shops are not opening, so we can`t get supplies."

Power was restored to 72 percent of the Tarapaca region while potable water returned to 67 percent of the area. Dozens of families from Pozo Almonte spent the night in tents put up on the pitch of the Iquique soccer stadium.

Some huddled around bonfires as temperatures dropped to a chilly eight to 10 degrees Celsius (46 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.)

"The earth hasn`t stopped shaking. The floor moves every other moment. That`s why we`re sleeping outside," said Lila Gomez Mamani, a 60-year-old resident of Pozo Almonte, a community outside Iquique.

The poncho-clad Gomez and her family were among them, gathering wood to light a small fire to one side of the field.

"It`s the second night we`re sleeping here, there`s no way we can go home," Gomez Mamani said. "We have not been helped."

Renac Zuniga, an emergency relief official, said authorities were focused on "helping the population as quickly as possible" but acknowledged that Wednesday`s aftershock had complicated the situation.

"There are more than 10 aftershocks per hour," said National Seismology Center director Sergio Barrientos.

The first earthquake caused damage in some 2,500 homes in Alto Hospicio, an Iquique suburb, authorities said.

A collapsed wall at a women`s prison allowed some 300 inmates to escape in Iquique. Authorities have recaptured 110 of them. The earthquakes have rocked Chile just weeks after Bachelet began her second term in office.

The socialist leader`s government had been criticized for its response to an 8.8-magnitude earthquake near the end of her last term in 2010.

At the time, authorities called of a tsunami alert, prompting people to prematurely return home. More than 500 people died in the ensuing waves.

This time, however, the evacuations appeared to have gone smoothly, with officials saying lessons were learned from past disasters.

Experts said Chile has yet to experience "the big one," a major earthquake expected to one day hit the country that lies near a fault line running along its 4,200-kilometer coast.

"There are still many areas where there could be an accumulation of energy that could be released in the future," Barrientos said.

First Published: Friday, April 4, 2014 - 11:13
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