King, queen of Spain cancel visits to Chile, Brazil

10:00, March 01, 2010      

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Spanish King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia on Sunday cancelled their official visit to Chile and Brazil, one day after a devastating quake hit Chile.

The royal couple had planned to travel to Chile on Monday to attend the International Congress of the Spanish Language in Valparaiso, Chile.

Their agenda included a dinner with Bachelet in La Moneda Palace, the inauguration of three exhibitions, and a meeting with Spanish citizens living in Chile.

After the 8.8-magnitude quake struck Chile, the Chilean Foreign Ministry announced the cancellation of the language event.

King Juan Carlos on Saturday phoned Chilean President Michelle Bachelet to express the solidarity and support of the Spanish Crown and people.

During the conversation, the king said that Spain will follow the decision taken by the Chilean government about the Congress of the Spanish Language.

An earthquake measuring 8.8 magnitude shook central and southern Chile before dawn Saturday, killing at least 708 people and leaving hundreds of others missing.

Bachelet said on Sunday the death toll was likely to increase as rescue operations went on. Over 2 million people were affected by the temblor and more than 1.5 million buildings were damaged or destroyed.

Some estimates put the total damage at between 15 billion U.S. dollars and 30 billion U.S. dollars, equal to 10 percent to 20 percent of Chile's gross domestic product.

In the hardest-hit town of Concepcion, 115 kilometers from the epicenter of the quake, which is off the coast of Maule region, the whole downtown area was razed to the ground.

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