SITUATION in CHILE
On 27 February a powerful 8.8 magnitude earthquake hit central Chile. Since the initial quake, the U.S. Geological Survey reports 150 aftershocks. Nine of these aftershocks have had a magnitude of 6.0 or greater, on 6 March, including a strong 6.6 magnitude aftershock near Concepción on 6 March. On 4 March the Government sharply corrected downward the number of deaths, because of confusion over the number of people who had disappeared (especially in the Maule Region where death numbers were lowered from 587 to 316). The official death toll, on 8 March, was reported to be 528 persons. Rescue officials have informed that they are not keeping records of people reported to have disappeared especially those linked to the tsunami, even though some have estimated that up to 500 people could be missing. A 30-day curfew has been imposed in the most affected regions of Maule and Bio-Bio.
More than one week after the quake, there is still a lack of reliable information about damage and needs. More than 350 people died in the coastal town of Constitución (Maule region) due to waves from a tsunami. Two EU Member State citizens are confirmed dead (one Swedish and one Spanish), one Belgian citizen is injured. The death toll is expected to continue to rise as communications are restored with the most affected areas.
Those Member States that have Consulates in Chile confirmed that they would seek to provide assistance to any MS citizen that requests it. Some EU Member States have substantial numbers of nationals in Chile (Italy 50,000, Spain about 31,000, Germany about 30,000 and the UK about 5,000). However, these figures mostly refer to people with dual nationality, which are long-term residents in the country and are certainly not in need of evacuation.
Most affected regions: Maule, Bio-Bio, Araucania, Santiago, Valparaíso and O'Higgins. Search and Rescue (SAR) Teams are still operative in affected areas. Evacuation of injured still ongoing mainly in Bio-Bio and Maule regions.
The latest official reported figures show over 2 million people have been affected by the quake.
An estimated 500,000 houses have been seriously damaged and some 1.5 million houses have been affected. A national state of emergency has been declared for Maule and Bio-Bio regions. President Bachelet has affirmed that 80% of the Chilean population has been affected in some way.
First estimate from Eqecat - a U.S. company involved in risk analysis for insurance companies - indicate that the quake could cost between USD 15 and USD 30 billion (the equivalent of 15% of Chile's GDP). Chile's national debt stands at 6% of its annual GDP, the country's Social and Economic Stabilization Fund holds USD 11.3 billion (source: Global Insight). Copper are located mostly in the north of the country and they seem benot affected by the earthquake. The World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) have opened credit lines for Chile.
Chile's new government takes office on Thursday 11 March. Albeit the polemics between the Chilean Navy and ONEMI on the failed tsunami alert, President elect Sebastián Piñera has said that he wants the current head of ONEMI, Carmen Fernández, to stay on after his administration takes office.