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Poor at the back of the queue for Chile aid

Aid has just started to arrive in Concepcion, Chile's second largest city, which bore the brunt of the earthquake where an 18-hour nightly curfew is still in place to prevent looting. But the city’s poor are the last to be fed.

On the first day 13,000 plastic shopping bags of supplies — rice, vegetables, oil, cereal, nappies, milk and coffee — were delivered to middle-class areas.“The first of the food deliveries were for the middle class,” said Carlos González Sánchez, of the municipal council, “because the lower class had been stealing from the supermarkets.” “The focus of the looting was small bands of thieves from the poblaciones (poor neighbourhoods). The curfew has had a good result. The situation is now under control,” he told The Times newspaper. About two million Chileans are believed to have been affected and 1.5 million homes damaged by Saturday's 8.8 magnitude earthquake, the seventh most powerful on record.

María Elvengo Porter is one of thousands living in tents and shelters made of plastic sheeting “My roof fell down,” said María Elvengo Porter. “I cook with water from a swimming pool,” she said. “The water has chlorine in it.” “We took food from the supermarkets, but only food, no TVs, just what we need,” Ms Porter said. “It’s a cry for help from the Government.” So far no help has arrived. Today, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is due to visit the south American country to assess the damage and meet the outgoing president Michelle Bachelet and her successor, Sebastion Pinera. It could take as long as four years for the country to rebuild and recover, president Bachelet told Chilean radio. It would take foreign aid and most of the mandate of President-elect Sebastian Pinera to rebuild, she added.

Set to take office next week, President-elect Pinera said his government would be one of reconstruction, with a four stage plan "to cope with the emergency needs of citizens, find people who are still missing, provide prompt and timely assistance to the sick and wounded, and restore law and order so that people can return to peace". Last night the Chilean Government sharply lowered the death toll in the disaster to 279 people from a previously reported 802. President Bachelet said some of the missing might have been included in earlier counts. Three days of national mourning have been declared, starting on Sunday.

By Hayley Jarvis for SOS Children