CONCEPCION, Chile – Chile’s government scrambled on Monday to provide aid to thousands of homeless in coastal towns devastated by a massive earthquake and tsunamis as 10,000 troops moved into stricken areas to quell looting.
The government sharply raised the death toll to 711 from Saturday’s 8.8-magnitude quake as harrowing scenes of destruction emerged in isolated towns swamped by the giant waves that were triggered by one of the strongest earthquakes in a century.
With many people missing and some communities in the worst-hit central region of the South American country still largely cut off by mangled roads, President Michelle Bachelet said the death toll was certain to rise. Chile requested international aid from the U.N. on Monday, officials said.
Surging waves ruined houses and smashed cars in fishing villages on the country’s long Pacific coast. In the town of Constitucion alone, about 350 people died, state television quoted emergency officials as saying.
A night-time curfew went into effect in the Maule region and the heavily damaged town of Concepcion, where hundreds of looters ransacked stores for food and other goods. Looting also broke out in parts of the capital, Santiago.
“We don’t have water or anything. No one has appeared with help and we need more police to keep order. There are many people here who are robbing,” said a 78-year-old woman who identified herself as Ana in the badly hit city of Talca, 155 miles south of Santiago.
In Concepcion, firefighters looking for survivors in a toppled apartment block were forced to pause because of tear gas fired to stop looters, who were wheeling off everything from microwave ovens to canned milk at a damaged supermarket across the street.
Survivors camping along roads took out their frustration on firefighters who were distributing drinking water in thermoses and tea kettles, damaging their vehicles. Police arrested scores of people for looting and violating the curfew.
Concepcion Mayor Jacqueline van Rysselberghe had earlier said the situation there was getting “out of control” due to shortages of basic supplies and called for the national government to help.
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Article courtesy of: msnbc.com