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Feb-27-2010 15:01printcommentsVideo

Chilean Earthquake Update

President-elect Pinera faces a huge task putting Chile back together after the quake.

(PATAGONIA, Argentina) - A powerful earthquake measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale has struck the central Chilean coastal city of Concepcion at 3:34 a.m. local time.

Early reports of damage in Concepcion are spotty due to electricity and cell phone networks having been taken down by the quake.

Severe damage has been recorded over 200 miles away in the Chilean capital, Santiago, where some buildings and overpasses have collapsed and the electricity grid has gone down. The preliminary death toll in Chile now stands at 122 and is expected to go much higher.

The quake was felt north and south along the Chilean coast for hundreds of miles and inland as far away as Sao Paulo, Brazil. The entire northern half of Argentina shook during the might.

Since the quake was deep and centered in the Pacific offshore, a tsunami has resulted that has already hit the pacific islands of Juan Fernandez and Easter Island. Hawaii is expected to be the next tsunami victim and Japan and New Zealand are preparing for monster waves as well.

Chilean president Michele Bachelet has ordered evacuations of coastal areas as far south as Antarctica and has secured pledges of aid from neighboring countries.

Argentine president Cristina Fernandez has pledged a total commitment to send however much help will be necessary while Buenos Aires receives all the international flights intended for the now closed Santiago airport.

This disaster will not be a test for the Chilean government as Ms. Bachelet is a lame duck scheduled to leave office in a few days.

President-elect Pinera has been included in disaster response planning and he will undoubtedly face a huge task ahead as he takes office with a mandate to put Chile back together after the quake.

Chile has had much experience with major earthquakes, having recovered from a 9.5 quake in 1960. During the recent eruption of the Chaiten volcano in southern Chile, the Bachelet government responded quickly and effectively, cushioning most of Chaiten’s residents against the more severe effects of the destruction of their town.

Raw footage from The AP on the Chillean Earthquake:

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gp February 27, 2010 5:57 pm (Pacific time)

In Bolson it seems like Sr. Kovacs and Eddie and I were the only ones not awake feeling the house shake, watcthing doors open, glasses walk across the table and being frightened out of our wits by the quake last night. Birdwatchers sleep like babes in a storm. The whole town was abuzz but all said it was less severe than when the volcano Chaiten blew just before we got here several years ago.

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.