Strong aftershocks continue to rattle Chile as the nation begins offical mourning for its earthquake victims.
However the number of dead is being revised down, and there is some confusion over the figures, adding to the debate about the emergency service’s state of readiness and the government response to the disaster, both of which have been criticised.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon arrives today for a two-day visit to assess the situation, but it is a dire one for Chile’s economy.
Hundreds of thousands of homes have been destroyed along with bridges and roads, and modern buildings in the centre of Santiago have been split in two. The quake briefly shut down the world’s richest copper mines, which account for most of Chile’s export earnings, and it and the following tidal waves have wrecked ports and Chile’s vinyards and bodegas, setting that industry back a decade or more.
“All the infrastructure’s destroyed. That means we’ll need three to four months to give some kind of shape to this mess,” said a local man.
Analysts say if international aid is forthcoming and reconstruction takes off quickly, the economy could bounce back in the second half of the year.