SANTIAGO, Chile — The earth shook and shook Thursday as dignitaries walked in for the swearing-in of Sebastian Pinera as Chile's president. It shook some more as they waited for him.
People in the balconies of the vast congressional hall in coastal Valparaiso shouted warnings as a massive light fixture rocked overhead, and heads of state nervously eyed the ceiling. But a steely calm prevailed, and Pinera strode in smiling.
The 60-year-old president and his ministers then quickly swore their oaths, and the audience of 2,000 headed for the exits and the hills, joining an evacuation called out of concern that Thursday's repeated aftershocks would set off another tsunami.
Inauguration Day was peppered with more than a dozen significant aftershocks, amply demonstrating Pinera's challenges after last month's magnitude-8.8 quake, one of the biggest in modern history.
Chile's first elected right-wing president in 52 years won office promising to improve the economy. Now, he says he'll be the "reconstruction president." His advice to citizens: "Let's dry our tears and put our hands to work."
But relief efforts stalled Thursday as more than 10 earthquakes shook Chile in a span of six hours. The strongest, at 6.9, nearly matched the 7.0-magnitude quake that devastated Haiti on Jan. 12.
Pinera said there were no reports of more deaths, but a key highway suffered more damage in the inland city of Rancagua, and violent waves hit the coastal towns of Pichilemu and Bucalemu, Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter said.