Rescue Efforts Ramp Up In Quake-Stricken Chile

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Saturday's earthquake in Chile killed at least 300 people and has caused millions, if not billions of dollars in damage. Host Liane Hansen speaks with Chile's ambassador to the United States, Jose Goni, about the Chilean government's efforts to help those in need.

LIANE HANSEN, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

A tsunami warning has been lifted for 53 countries and regions in the Pacific after an earthquake struck the Andean nation of Chile yesterday. The magnitude 8.8 quake hit the central region killing some 300 people and damaging hundreds of thousands of homes plus roads and power lines.

Chile's President Michelle Bachelet has declared a state of catastrophe in the region where the quake hit. Jose Goni is Chile's ambassador to the United States. He joins us on the phone from his residence in Washington, D.C. Mr. Ambassador, first, our condolences and our sympathies are with you.

Ambassador JOSE GONI (Chile): Thank you very much, Liane.

HANSEN: What have you been hearing and are you hearing from the people in the region near the earthquake?

Amb. GONI: Well, firstly, I would like to say that this earthquake is the worst that we have experienced in Chile since 1960. You mentioned that we already had gotten - we had casualties. And, certainly, I think that this number is going to increase. I can tell you that the region affected is about 25 percent of our territory where 80 or 85 percent of our population is located.

So the impact both from the infrastructure point of view economically, but mainly from the human point of view is enormous, is enormous. We got new aftershocks. We have had more than 50 aftershocks during the last 25 hours. So, you can imagine that the country has been moving almost in a permanent way.

HANSEN: Yeah. The aftershock was nearly as powerful as the one that hit Haiti on January 12th. President Obama of the United States has offered aid to your country. Do you think Chile will ask for help?

Amb. GONI: Yes. We are - been receiving a lot of solidarity from the United States, from President Obama. I can tell you for the time being we are reacting with our own means. Chile is a very well-organized country. We are a very strong institution with relative good experience in these kind of catastrophes. But certainly I think that we are going to need in the immediate future some international cooperation.

But we don't take these international cooperation from Haiti. Of course, they are also experiencing a very critical situation, but probably when we need to reconstruct the country, probably in this situation we are going to need more international cooperation.

HANSEN: Jose Goni is Chile's ambassador to the United States. He joined us from his residence in Washington, D.C. Thank you, sir. Good luck.

Mr. GONI: Thank you, Liane. Thank you very much for your interest.

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