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Quake curtails Chile leader trip

BBC News | June 14, 2005

Chilean President Ricardo Lagos has cut short an overseas trip after at least eight people were killed in a powerful 7.9 magnitude earthquake in Chile.

Mr Lagos had met the Swedish prime minister in Stockholm but was heading home, a Swedish official said.

Chile's government rushed aid and senior officials to the northern Andean region where the earthquake struck.

Three people were killed in falling buildings and five died when rocks crushed their vehicle, officials said.

In the coastal town of Iquique, hundreds of people ran into the streets in fear of collapsing buildings and even a tsunami.

The earthquake, which lasted nearly a minute, was also felt in neighbouring Bolivia and Peru.

'Vulnerable region'

Iquique, which is 115km (70 miles) from the epicentre, and two other coastal towns, Arica and Antofagasta, appeared to have suffered the worst damage.

The Chilean government said the region had suffered power cuts, telephone communication was down and several houses had collapsed.

The authorities by-passed blocked roads by flying 15 tons of relief supplies directly to the stricken area on military cargo planes, the government's Emergency Bureau said.

Relief workers were trying to find shelter for those made homeless by the disaster, it said.

"We cannot exclude the possibility of more casualties," said Interior Minister Jorge Correa.

Largest quake

The BBC's Clinton Porteous in Santiago says Chile is prone to earthquakes.

In 1960, it suffered the world's largest recorded earthquake which resulted in thousands of deaths.

But, our correspondent says, this latest quake occurred more than 100km underground and is one of the key reasons the death toll is relatively low.


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