Chile began dispatching emergency crews and assessing damage left by the biggest earthquake in the world this year that claimed 10 lives and forced more than a million people to evacuate coastal areas.
After a tsunami alert was lifted early Thursday, residents of towns in the region of Coquimbo began returning to their homes, many of which had crumbled in the 8.3-magnitude earthquake. Tsunamis caused severe damage to the region’s main port, Interior Minister Jorge Burgos said.
The disaster brought back memories of an even-stronger 2010 quake that trigged a tsunami that killed hundreds. Copper prices, which had jumped after the quake hit at 7:54 p.m. local time Wednesday, retreated after producers said their mines escaped damage. Chile is the biggest producer of the metal.
“Once again we’ve been forced to face a tough blow from nature,” President Michelle Bachelet said in televised remarks. “Today our main focus is on supporting and helping people.”
On Thursday, Bachelet embarked on a tour of the hardest hit areas near the cities of Illapel and Coquimbo. The government declared disaster areas in four cities in the province of Choapa after the tremor, which swayed buildings more than 100 miles away in Chile’s capital Santiago.
Bachelet faced criticism in 2010 for failing to issue an evacuation warning for low-lying areas in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. At the time, many blamed the government’s inaction for hundreds of deaths throughout Chile’s coast.
“The response has been good, timely and agile and the citizenship has collaborated very efficiently,” Bachelet said Thursday.
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