Thousands homeless after Chile quake

  • 21/09/2015
The number of people estimated to be left homeless has jumped drastically from 3500 to more than 9000 (Reuters)
The number of people estimated to be left homeless has jumped drastically from 3500 to more than 9000 (Reuters)

More than 9000 people were left homeless after a powerful earthquake hit northern and central Chile last week, officials say, dramatically increasing previous estimates.

The death toll from the 8.3 magnitude quake that struck on September 16 remained at 13, with four still missing, said Deputy Interior Minister Mahmud Aleuy.

But the number of people left homeless jumped drastically from 3500, as officials scour remote towns in the Coquimbo region, more than 260 kilometres north of Santiago, where the quake epicentre was located.

"We hope that by Friday we will have surveyed all of the people who were affected," Aleuy said.

The offshore earthquake was the sixth strongest in the history of geologically volatile Chile and the most powerful anywhere in the world this year, officials say.

Emergency personnel backed by soldiers were still busy cleaning up the coastal city of Coquimbo, which was a jumble of fishing boats, destroyed homes, vendors' stands and vehicles washed up by the tsunami waves that followed the quake.

Public Works Minister Alberto Undurraga toured the city on Sunday (local time), and said that only 25 percent of the area's clean-up work had been completed.

The tsunami crashed ashore just minutes after about one million people were evacuated from the shoreline following the quake.

The human toll was far lower than in February 2010, when an 8.8-magnitude quake and tsunami left 500 people dead.

Chilean authorities have yet to put a financial figure on the damage, but it is not expected to come anywhere near the US$30 billion – 18 percent of Chile's GDP – suffered five years ago.

The national emergency service ONEMI reported Sunday that 647 homes were destroyed, 1183 families were without power and 2400 were without drinking water.