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Relief Effort Slow In Quake-Hit Chilean City


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Michele Norris.


And I'm Melissa Block.

We begin this hour in Chile, where relief efforts are gearing up after Saturday's devastating magnitude 8.8 earthquake. In a moment, we'll hear from the U.S. ambassador to Chile, Paul Simons, who's in the country's capital, Santiago. But first, we go to Concepcion. It's the second largest city in Chile and one of the hardest hit by the quake.

Reporter Annie Murphy is there and she reports that relief efforts aren't yet meeting the needs of the people.

ANNIE MURPHY: We're in the parking lot of an enormous mall near the city of Concepcion, Chile, surrounded by movie theaters, electronic stores and supermarkets. But inside, it's broken, caved in or simply in ruins. After the 8.8 magnitude quake that hit this area on Saturday morning, what was once a symbol of Chile's status as a developed nation, the mall, has been reduced to splinters.

In the abandoned parking lot, the military is overseeing volunteers who make relief packages. Elizabeth Salazar(ph) is getting off her shift.

Ms. ELIZABETH SALAZAR (Volunteer): (Foreign language spoken)

MURPHY: Elizabeth says that the packages contain useful items like rice, pasta, flour and, for some families, diapers, milk and canned goods. But the Chilean government has been widely criticized for its slow response. Major Marcelo Rodrigero(ph) is in charge of the operation. He's still not sure when these packages will actually be handed out.

Major MARCELO RODRIGERO (Chilean Army): (Through translator) From here, the relief packages go to the local government, which is in charge of distributing them to different areas.

MURPHY: Two army trucks are about to pull out, laden with plastic bags of food and toiletries and guarded by soldiers. Government aid will soon arrive in Concepcion, but it's unclear just how large need actually is and if the Chilean government will be able to meet it.

Maj. RODRIGERO: (Through translator) Given that there was widespread looting of local supermarkets, I imagine that there is an enormous need for basic ingredients to prepare meals.

MURPHY: And on the streets of Concepcion, people are still waiting for relief to begin flowing.

In Concepcion, Chile, this is Annie Murphy for NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Annie Murphy