People stand outside their homes, guarding them from looters in Concepcion, Chile, Monday, March. 1, 2010. The government sent soldiers to Concepcion and ordered a nighttime curfew to quell looting after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck central Chile early Saturday. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

On guard for looters in Concepcion. (Natacha Pisarenko/AP)

By Mark Memmott

"There's a state of chaos and panic in the city," reporter Annie Murphy tells NPR News from Concepcion, Chile, which was perhaps the place hardest hit by Saturday's powerful, 8.8-magnitude earthquake, which killed at least 700 people in the country and caused extensive damage.

News anchor Paul Brown introduces this report from Murphy, who says bands of looters have been roaming the city:

Murphy also spoke with NPR's Renee Montagne on Morning Edition. In that conversation, Murphy said the looters were most active yesterday afternoon, and that overnight many people were out in the streets trying to protect their homes and businesses. She also said that the post-quake tsunami carried water and debris about a kilometer inland. People in the area, she added, are begging her to tell the world that they need help -- and that the Chilean government isn't moving fast enough to get it to them:

Police tried to get control of the situation yesterday, firing tear gas at some of the looters. Meanwhile, rescuers in the city tried to get to an estimated 60 people trapped inside a 15-story apartment building that collapsed.

The BBC adds that:

A curfew in Chile's second city, Concepcion, has been extended until midday as troops struggle to contain looting after the earthquake. Dozens of people were arrested after looters fought over goods and set fire to a department store. The authorities have announced they are setting up an air bridge to deliver aid from the capital, Santiago, to Concepcion.

Also from Chile, there's this chilling story: "Tsunami Swept Away Fleeing Bus Of Retirees".

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is due in Chile today. The U.S. has pledged to assist Chile in any way it can.

One more Chile-related story of interest: CNN reports that the earthquake "may have shifted the Earth's axis and created shorter days, scientists at NASA say."

Update at 9 a.m. ET. Clinton has arrived, as the AP reports:

"U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton arrived in earthquake-ravaged Chile on Tuesday to offer the devastated country moral and material support as it recovers from the deadly disaster. Clinton flew into the capital of Santiago, delivering much-needed satellite communication equipment and a technician. It's a first installment of what she says will be substantial U.S. relief assistance."

Update at 8:35 a.m. ET: Reuters reports that Chilean President Michelle
Bachelet said today that the situation was under control in Concepcion thanks to the deployment of thousands of troops.

categories: Accidents and Disasters, Foreign News

7:15 - March 2, 2010