Half-a-million Chileans slide into poverty after quake

Half-a-million Chileans have fallen into poverty since the devastating earthquake of February 27, 2010.

Santiago (Chile): Half-a-million Chileans have fallen into poverty since the devastating earthquake of February 27, 2010, the Chilean government has said.

Planning Minister Felipe Kast on Tuesday called for "national unity" in the face of the crisis, which left the South American country with 19.4 percent of its 16 million people in poverty. This is the country`s highest poverty rate since 2000.

The government-sponsored survey showed that 17.3 percent of the people in areas affected by the quake lost their homes or suffered major damage to them.

Housing Minister Magdalena Matte, who has been the target of criticism over reconstruction policies and programmes, spoke in favour of the government`s efforts in southern Chile.

"The reconstruction we are doing and carrying out is one of the most efficient ever known in Chile and in many places around the world," she said.

The quake, with a magnitude of 8.8 on the Richter scale, is among the strongest earthquakes on record.

IANS

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