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Earthquake response arrives in Chile

Rescue efforts are under way in earnest to help survivors of a massive earthquake in Chile.

Authorities said Saturday’s magnitude 8.8 quake left more than 300 people dead but the death toll was expected to rise as aftershocks continued to hit the South American country.

Around 1.5M Chileans were affected by the tremors, which caused buildings and roads to collapse and left 500,000 homes severely damaged.

But fears a tsunami would wreak further devastation across the Pacific proved unfounded with waves failing to cause serious problems.

A tsunami warning put in place for 53 countries has been lifted.

In London, the Chilean ambassador Rafael Moreno thanked the international community for offers of support but said the situation was “under control”.

He said strict regulations about earthquake-proofing new buildings would have helped to limit the damage.

UK aid organisations were quick to respond to the earthquake, with charities including Oxfam, Save the Children, ShelterBox and the British Red Cross pledging to help.

But communications and access problems hampered workers’ efforts to reach people who needed help.

Jeremy Loveless, Oxfam’s deputy humanitarian director, said: “Access to the affected area is often difficult during the first 24 hours after an earthquake and it is deeply frustrating that it can take some time to get our staff to where they need to be.

“Our team has to drive over the top of the Andes on badly damaged roads to get to Concepcion because the Santiago airport is still closed.

“Until our team has been able to reach the affected area and complete an early assessment, we are unclear how we will best be able to assist the thousands of people affected by the quake. We are not asking for donations at this stage.

“Chile has an effective emergency response system, and a government that is able to organise relief.

“At this stage, it is unlikely that we will need to respond in the same way as in Haiti or Pakistan but until our team actually reaches the affected area we will not know for sure.”

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