Chilean Authorities Extend Curfew In Concepcion

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on a tour of Latin America, is taking along satellite phones for Chilean officials. They are trying to restore communications with southern and coastal areas, devastated after Saturday's earthquake. The curfew in one of the hardest-hist areas, Concepcion, has been extended because of looting.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has arrived in Santiago, Chile today. She's on a tour of Latin America, and she's bringing some satellite phones for officials there in Chile. They're trying to restore communications with southern and coastal areas devastated after one of the largest earthquakes on record.

More than 700 people are dead and hundreds of thousands without homes. The city of Concepcion was hit hard by that quake. And that's where NPR's Juan Forero is this morning.

Good morning, Juan.

JUAN FORERO: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: So I gather you just arrived after a very long drive down from the capital of Santiago. What did you see along the way?

FORERO: You could see a lot of the impact of the quake, even close to Santiago. Roads had buckled in some areas. Bridges had fallen. There were big, long stretches of highway that were fine, but then one would hit an area where the entire highway would have fallen off or caved in on itself.

And so there were a lot of cars and trucks that were being detoured along country roads. And that's what made the travel so difficult - the detours, and also a lot of traffic. A lot of people were out and about trying to find fuel, trying to get to stores and so forth. So it was very much out of the ordinary.

MONTAGNE: And are there aid convoys trying to reach Concepcion? I mean, I'm wondering also if they can fly in aid. But are they driving it in?

FORERO: There have been flights into Concepcion. And one would assume that there is aid coming into the city, because the government says it needs to respond. But that's not something that I saw on the way in.

And, in fact, arriving here in Concepcion, you notice immediately that the streets have been taken over by the authorities, by the military - Marines and Army soldiers. And that's because of heavy looting over the last days. So that demonstrates that aid has not come in - at least not in significant quantities, because people had stormed the stores here in Concepcion.

MONTAGNE: And you've just come from Haiti. How would you describe the destruction and the state of the people there in Concepcion where you are now?

FORERO: It's a very different situation. Haiti, of course, has very shoddy architecture. And in Haiti, buildings had pancaked down. So you would see buildings that were five, six stories when they had stood, and now they were at the height of a man. And here what you have is much less destruction.

Coming into the city, I did not see many buildings that had collapsed. Although, at the moment, I am in front of a 14 or 15-story apartment building that did go down. And there are firefighters here who are trying to look for survivors inside.

They're estimating there are about seven to 11 people inside. So it's not on that level. Of course, you know that here in Chile, they're talking about 720 or more confirmed dead. And in Haiti, we were talking about 200,000 people.

MONTAGNE: We are, though, hearing that law and order all but broke down in the city. You just mentioned looting. Is that what military and police officers are telling you?

FORERO: Yes, exactly. There was heavy looting here in the town. People had stormed supermarkets and many other stores. There were a lot of people who were simply taking advantage of the lack of the state presence here and going in and stealing televisions and toasters and ovens and so forth.

So the authorities brought in the Marines and also Army soldiers to patrol the streets. And it's a pretty heavy state presence. The government of Michelle Bachelet has also installed a curfew, and it's a pretty long curfew. Today, it goes until noon to try to keep people off the streets.

MONTAGNE: NPR's Juan Forero speaking to us from Concepcion, Chile.

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