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Aid workers descend on quake devastated Chile

One of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded, the 8.8 magnitude quake devastated central parts of the south American country, killing more than 700 people.

Last night many Chileans are spent a second night outside, afraid to stay in wrecked homes. About 500,000 homes have been severely damaged, reported the Guardian newspaper, leaving nearly one in eight people homeless.The country’s president has announced emergency measures to deal with the destruction and the Chilean army has taken control of towns and cities affected, imposing curfews and guarding shops from looters."We are facing a catastrophe of such unthinkable magnitude that it will require a giant effort for Chile to recover]," said president, Michelle Bachelet. Speaking to the nation, she and confirmed that two million people – an eighth of the population – have been affected by the quake. She said Chile needed field hospitals, temporary bridges, water purification plants, damage assessment experts and rescuers to relieve those already working to find survivors.

More than 100 people are still trapped inside a wrecked 14-storey building in Concepción, Chile's second largest city, which was hit first by the earthquake and then by a tsunami. The new building was only half full, but about 20 bodies were pulled from the rubble. With the country still being battered by aftershocks measuring up to 7.5 continued to batter the country, rescuers arrived at coastal cities to find entire fishing villages had been washed away. The death toll was expected to rise dramatically because of the number of people missing. Because most people were sleeping when the quake struck and were not carrying any personal documents, identifying the dead has been complicated.Today, more than 48 hours since the quake struck, people are getting desperate. In many areas they still don't have water, food, and electricity. “I get the sense that the government is totally overwhelmed at the moment by the magnitude of this quake,” said a BBC correspondent in the capital, Santiago.

In Concepcion, as people got desperate and ran out of food, water and fuel, fighting broke out in a supermarket, ending when police and supermarket officials allowed residents to remove essential items free of charge. Food warehouses were also looted, and Jacqueline van Rysselberghe, the mayor of Concepción, warned: "We are going to have social explosion if aid is not received today." Chile lies on the ‘Ring of Fire’, the line of frequent quakes and volcanic eruptions that circles virtually the entire Pacific rim. 

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children