Chile's incoming gov't faces post-quake challenges

15:37, March 03, 2010      

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Chile's President-elect Sebastian Pinera, who is to take office in nine days, faces broader challenges posed by the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the nation a week ago.

Governance is a major concern with looting taking place and curfew imposed in some cities. Reconstruction is another one as Pinera said it may cost as much as 30 billion U.S. dollars.

Nonetheless, reconstruction efforts might help Pinera provide the 1 million new jobs he had promised during his presidential campaign.

Saturday's quake, the worst in Chile since 1960, has killed at least 795 people, according to government estimates Tuesday, but the most striking effect might have been a breakdown in social order.

The worst-hit Concepcion, the country's second largest city, saw increasing post-quake lawlessness before troops moved in. Citizens began raiding supermarkets for food and water, following power cuts and sewage system failures caused by the quake.

On Tuesday, a local mayor said that the town hall had been overrun by a gang armed with sticks grabbing away computers and office supplies.

Chile has increased deployment of troops to 14,000 across quake-hit areas in an attempt to quell clashes and restore order, President Michelle Bachelet said Tuesday.

"This is not the time for contemplation," Bachelet told a press conference. "It is the time for action and that is what we are doing."

However, the natural disaster has not triggered an economic collapse in the country, as top exports copper and wine have managed to escape the ravages of the quake.

Copper mining, in which Chile has a 35 percent share of the world's market, has resumed operation. The country's biggest mine Andina would be operating at full capacity.

Besides, a top official in the wine industry said that 20 percent of the wine in stock at the moment may have suffered some significant losses, but wineries would continue to export.

Even so, some 70 percent of the nation's vineyards are located in Maule and Biobio, the regions most affected by the quake.

Many workers there might be busy seeking shelters rather than taking harvest into account, though the harvest season is to begin in weeks.

Chile has received multiple pledges of aid worldwide, although the response was weaker than for Haiti, where as many as 300,000 people were killed in a massive earthquake last month.

Source: Xinhua
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