Chile now says 800 people were killed in the weekend’s earthquake and even deadlier tsunami that followed it. President Bachelet says the final death toll is likely to be higher.
However with many coastal areas still flooded by seawater and inaccessible, there are fears that many of the large number of missing persons could eventually turn out to have perished.
“It was horrible. Three endless minutes, and then the wave. Those cars were in the parking lot, and now they are here. They were thrown on top of this house.”
“The only thing they send is the army, as if it were the 17-year military dictatorship again. This earthquake might be worse the military dictatorship.” These were just two survivor’s opinions.
Thousands of troops have been pitched into the mud to try and bring first aid, and then help in the cleanup and rebuilding operations, but controversy is raging about the tidal wave alert that could have saved lives on the coast.
“We weren’t accurate enough to tell the president whether to maintain the tsunami warning or not. If you want me to say we share some blame for some of the deaths, some responsibility, then in all honesty I must say yes, and we regret it deeply,” said Admiral Edmundo Gonzalez.
It appears poor communications led to the tsunami alert, which was immediately issued, being cancelled too soon, meaning people returned to danger areas.
“I had to identify my daughter, who died next to me. The whole house fell on us. We are from Santiago and were renting here for the summer.
People from my family died,” said one grieving woman.
Four days after the disaster and the police and soldiers are still having to deal with looters, with dozens of arrests made so far. Chile’s second city, the hard-hit Constitucion, and six other towns have been placed under martial law.