Chile death toll rises to 723

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Santiago - Chile's National Emergency Office has put the death toll of Saturday's earthquake and subsequent aftershocks at 723.

The office on Monday said most of those who died were in the rural coastal region of Maule, rather than the worst hit major cities of Santiago and Concepcion.

At least eight aftershocks that registered over 5 on the Richter scale occurred on Monday in the center-south zone of Chile, after the devastating 8.8 magnitude quake on Saturday.

The US Geological Survey said the epicenters of three aftershocks, measuring 5.3 and 5.2 magnitudes respectively, were in the region of O'Higgins, some 120 km south of Santiago.

In Bio Bio region, the epicenter of the earthquake, some 400 km south of Santiago, three aftershocks were also registered, measuring 5.3 and 5.0 magnitudes respectively.

Experts said the aftershocks will continue for at least one month or longer in the affected zone but will be reduced in intensity and frequency.

Saturday's major quake appears to have caused less damage than the subsequent tsunami in Chile, said Defence Minister Francisco Vidal.

Vidal apologised for the government's negligence of the tsunami that hit Chile's coastal lines following the earthquake.

The tectonic movement is the biggest since 1950, when Chile suffered a 9.5 magnitude quake, the worst ever recorded in human history.

Being a country constantly attacked by earthquakes, Chileans are well-drilled in emergency procedures.