Chile Assesses Quake Toll

214 dead, but officials expect number to grow
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 28, 2010 10:35 AM CST
Chile Assesses Quake Toll
Vehicles that were driving along a highway that collapsed near Santiago are seen overturned on the asphalt Saturday, Feb. 27, 2010 after a powerful earthquake struck central Chile early Saturday.   (Carlos Espinoza)

A weeping man strokes the hand of a dead woman in a collapsed cafe. Survivors huddle around bonfires in the rubble of their homes. Smashed cars lie beneath bridges torn asunder by one of history's strongest earthquakes. Authorities in Chile put the official death toll from yesterday's 8.8-magnitude quake at 214, but said they believed the number would grow. They said 1.5 million Chileans were affected and 500,000 homes severely damaged by the mammoth temblor.

"We think the real (death) figure tops 300 and we believe this will continue to grow," said Carmen Fernandez, head of the National Emergency Agency. Chileans near the epicenter were thrown from their beds by the force of the megaquake, which was felt as far away as Sao Paulo in Brazil—1,800 miles away. "We were sleeping when we felt the quake, very strongly. I got up and went out the door. When I looked back my bed was covered in rubble," says one survivor. (More Chile earthquake stories.)

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