In Chile’s capital Santiago, many residents have been sleeping outside, fearing more aftershocks after Saturday’s quake.
The government says more than 300 people were killed when the earthquake struck before dawn. Many of them were still asleep. And, with rescue operations continuing, the death toll could soon be revised.
“We don’t want to be inside,” said one woman.
“We just run into the bathroom quickly. We plan to spend the whole night here outside. It is safer.”
“There are about 12 of us out here,” a man added.
“We live on the third floor and it seemed to me to be swaying horribly. I am frightened to go back inside.”
Outgoing President Michelle Bachelet has declared a state of catastrophe in central Chile, but says the full extent of the damage is still not known.
The coastal town of Dichato close to the quake
epicentre, near the city of Concepcion, was one of many to be devastated.
President-elect Sebastian Pinera has quite a task ahead of him, organising a mammoth rebuilding effort, after he is sworn in in two weeks time.
Half a million homes in the country have reportedly been destroyed. Roads and bridges have collapsed. Phone and power lines are down. It is estimated that two million people have been displaced.
Analysts say Chile’s economy has been dealt a severe blow as well. Work at two oil refineries and two copper mines has stopped. So it will be quite some time before the country is back on its feet.