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Aid begins to reach quake-devastated Chilean town

Earthquake survivors in Constitucion, Chile, wear surgical masks to mask the smell of bodies.

Associated Press

Earthquake survivors in Constitucion, Chile, wear surgical masks to mask the smell of bodies.

CONSTITUCION, Chile — Shipments of food, water, clothing and other basics finally began pouring in Wednesday to this earthquake-devastated town, where increasingly hungry and frustrated residents have harshly criticized what they call a tardy response by the national government.

Still, fear and anger continued to stalk the community, and other hard-hit coastal cities where false reports of a tsunami alert, after a particularly strong aftershock, sent panicked residents rushing uphill toward the mountains.

In this working-class town some 200 miles south of Santiago, the capital, many residents Wednesday donned surgical masks against the odor of decomposing bodies and other organic material inside collapsed buildings. Bulldozers and other machinery finally arrived to pick through the debris. A refrigerator truck was parked alongside a temporary morgue that began handling unclaimed corpses.

Of 800 deaths nationwide from Saturday's magnitude 8.8 quake, about 500 occurred in this forestry center of 55,000. Many still are missing, and bodies continue to wash up in the surf.

Toll on insurers: The damage caused by the Chilean earthquake may cost insurers $2 billion to $8 billion, according to estimates from catastrophe-modelers AIR Worldwide and Eqecat Inc. At the high end of the estimate, it will follow only the Northridge, Calif., earthquake in 1994, which cost insurers $22 billion, according to inflation-adjusted data compiled by Munich Re and the Insurance Information Institute. A 1923 quake in Tokyo that cost the industry an adjusted $7.4 billion would fall to third. About 60 percent of commercial properties in the area of the disaster were insured for quakes, compared with less than 50 percent of commercial properties in California, said Jayanta Guin, senior vice president of research and modeling for Boston-based AIR.

Search for Americans: The U.S. Embassy in Chile said Wednesday that it is working to locate between 700 and 1,200 Americans believed to be in the country's earthquake zone. Thirty Americans have been located in the quake area, and there is no word of deaths of injuries.

This report contains information from the Associated Press, Bloomberg News and Los Angeles Times.

Aid begins to reach quake-devastated Chilean town 03/03/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 3, 2010 11:07pm]
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