Frightened by more heavy aftershocks, coastal residents in Chile camped out on hillsides on Thursday, five days after one of the strongest earthquakes in a century killed more than 800 people.
An emotional President Michelle Bachelet, a popular leader who steps down next week, pleaded with Chileans to stop hoarding supplies as aid reached central Pacific coast towns that were hardest hit by Saturday’s 8.8 quake and surging tsunamis.
Panicked over a possible repeat of the ferocious tide, people scurried up the hills near hard-hit Concepcion after one particularly strong aftershock, and yet another 6.1 magnitude tremor jolted the country late on Wednesday.
The original quake broke bridges and highways, cracked modern buildings in the capital’s suburbs, shattered vats at Chile’s famous vineyards and briefly shut down the country’s vast copper mines, the biggest in the world.
Retailers were left reeling after looters sacked shelves and burned some stores.
While the death toll stood at 802, hundreds more were unaccounted for. Families in coastal areas were camped on hillsides, scared to return to their homes.
Very few survivors emerged from the water after enormous waves sucked them out to sea on Saturday.
“It’s amazing to be alive,” said 43-year-old non-swimmer Bernardita Vives, who was tossed back on shore with broken bones after the sea dragged her away from Constitucion, a picturesque coastal town that was devastated and lost an estimated 350 people.