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Pinera takes power as quake aftershocks rattle Chile

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Pinera takes power as quake aftershocks rattle Chile

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Power has changed hands in earthquake-ravaged Chile.

A huge aftershock, just minutes before the swearing-in ceremony, served as a stark reminder of the enormous challenges the new president faces.

After Chile’s political shift to the right, taking office may have been a moment of pride for billionaire Sebastian Pinera. But there will be no honeymoon period.

Nearly 500 people died in last month’s quake and tsunami. Much of south-central Chile needs rebuilding after major infrastructure damage.

Her government’s response to the crisis was criticised but outgoing leader Michelle Bachelet remains popular and was given a suitably warm send-off in Congress.

Today’s 7.2 magnitude tremor shook buildings in the capital, Santiago. Dignitaries at the presidential inauguration in Valparaiso looked nervously at the ceiling of the Congress building which was evacuated shortly afterwards.

Elsewhere, as people fled onto the streets during the aftershocks, a tsunami alert was declared along the coast. Initial reports said the city of Rancagua, almost 100 kilometres south of Santiago, had suffered significant damage.