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Chilean Troops in Quake Zones to Total 7,000

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Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on Monday ordered more troop deployments in the quake-ravaged central and southern regions, bringing troop levels there to 7,000 on Tuesday.

The troops will establish and maintain orders in the quake zones and put chaos under control, she said.

During the last few days, lack of power, drinking water and food caused panic among residents in Concepcion, the hardest-hit city during the quake, triggering lootings in supermarkets and food stores.

In a looting incident witnessed by Xinhua reporters, some people broke the doors of a store and grabbed commodities. They then threw out the loot through the windows on the second floor, while others waiting on the ground picked them up and ran away.

Thus, the store could be empty in a short while.

On the day when the quake struck, drug stores are the first targets for the looters, locals told Xinhua. The food stores are the next.

Situations in the city have now deteriorated to the point that stores will be looted even with the presence of the owners.

To maintain social order, curfews have been imposed on the Maule region and the city of Concepcion since Sunday.

Riot-control police units have been arriving in Concepcion since Monday. Heavily-armed policemen with riot-control gears and water cannons are now patrolling the streets.

A magnitude-8.8 earthquake struck off central Chilean coasts early Saturday, killing at least 723 people and displacing 2 million others.

The costs of the damage could total US$30 billion according to some estimates.

(Xinhua News Agency March 2, 2010)