Looting chaos amid Chile's ruins

2010-03-02 19:59
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton walks with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, at the airport in Santiago, Chile. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP Photo/Pool)

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton walks with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, at the airport in Santiago, Chile. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais, AP Photo/Pool) (Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories


Concepción - Armed civilian defence groups and soldiers patrolled the streets of the ruined Chilean city of Concepción on Tuesday after mass looting diverted the desperate race to find survivors of the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

The government ordered thousands of troops to restore order in the zone hit by the magnitude 8.8 earthquake and extended a curfew after mobs set fire to stores.

The death toll rose to 723 and security fears mounted ahead of a visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

President Michelle Bachelet said there would be 7 000 troops in Concepción, the city nearest the quake epicentre, and other towns by Tuesday.

A curfew was extended from 08:00 Monday until 12:00Tuesday local time.

Armed self-defence groups set up fires on the night-time streets, darkened by power cuts, in their bid to keep looters away from their homes.

Many people slept outside their homes for a third night however, rattled by new aftershocks. More than 120 tremors with a magnitude greater than 5.0 have struck since Saturday's quake - including a 5.5 jolt before dawn on Tuesday.

Sense of public order

One person was killed as troops and police clamped down on looting on Monday, making 160 arrests.

The deputy interior minister said the government had purchased all food in Concepción's main supermarkets so it could be distributed for free, and more supplies were being shipped in.

Deputy Interior Minister Patricio Rosende said Concepción was a dangerous city. "When we have a catastrophe of this magnitude, when there is no electricity and no water, the population... starts losing the sense of public order."

Police and troops struggled to hold back angry looters.

AFP reporters saw people setting fire to a supermarket and a department store. A volunteer fireman was injured as the roof collapsed at one store while others doused a man who emerged screaming and covered in flames.

Even fire stations were ransacked and a medical clinic was pillaged at San Pedro de la Paz, outside Concepción.

Huge flames and clouds of black smoke billowed out over Concepción as rescue teams picked through the debris trying to reach survivors whose anguished cries could be heard in the rubble.

After touring the disaster zone, President-elect Sebastian Pinera recounted hearing cries for help when he entered a collapsed building not yet reached by rescuers.

Boats like toys in the streets

Teams with heat sensors and sniffer dogs picked through the debris of shattered buildings. Special cameras showed three, perhaps four, survivors trapped in the twisted ruins of one 15-story block that had fallen on its side.

Some two million people are said to be affected by the quake and after initially holding back, Chile appealed for international aid.

The UN humanitarian co-ordination office said Chile had asked for field hospitals, mobile bridges, communications equipment and disaster assessment teams.

The United States, Russia, European Union, Japan and other nations all offered help.

Violence was also reported in the seaside towns and villages engulfed by massive waves that followed the gigantic quake, and immense destruction was becoming apparent, with hundreds of homes simply swept away.

State television reported that more than 300 bodies had been found in the fishing village of Constitucion.

Boats tossed like toys lay in the streets in the town of Talcahuano, where Chilean troops were on patrol.

Communication equipment

The coastal village of Pellehue was virtually razed, about 100 homes had been washed away.

Outside Dichato, another fishing and tourism town, a trawler was perched on a small hill, its nets still on deck.

Aid worker Paula Saez described the situation in Dichato as "catastrophic", with the town cut off by road and residents beginning a fourth day with no outside aid, according to Christian aid group World Vision.

Clinton, who is on a Latin America tour that will include a brief stop in Chile on Tuesday, was bringing satellite telephones with her.

"They have asked for communications equipment, some of which I'm bringing on our plane. Other technical equipment will be flown there in addition," she said.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on Monday became the first foreign leader to visit since the disaster, expressing solidarity with quake victims as he met with Bachelet briefly at Santiago airport before flying home.


Read News24’s Comments Policy


Inside News24


Adventure holidays you HAVE to put on your bucket list

Need a break from your usual boring routine? Consider one of these places for your next adventure holiday.


Where were you when you last felt alive?

Top 10 water sports to try before you die
6 impressive camping tips
Free outdoor yoga classes
Watch: 5 skills to improve your BMX riding

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Save up to R1000 on Hisense smartphones!

View the large range of Hisense smartphones. Buy today and save up to R1000!

Deal of the week!

Save R1200 on the Samsung 48” smart full HD LED television now only R8799. Buy now!

Toys 4 for the price of 3

Buy 4 toys and get the cheapest FREE! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Mind blowing prices – As seen on TV

Get mind blowing prices on 1000’s of products! Shop now.

Save 20% on Nivea beauty products!

Buy any two Nivea beauty products and save 20%. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25


There is an easy social flow and the need to blend in, yet you may not feel entirely comfortable. Something beneath the surface...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.