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UN Sends Assistance to Quake-striken Chile

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The United Nations and its member states began to provide aid in damage assessment and humanitarian relief, responding to the quake-hit Chile's request, UN officials said Monday.

The 8.8-magnitude earthquake, which occurred early Saturday, has killed over 723 people. The death toll is expected to increase when communications in the most affected areas are restored.

The country's authorities have named its demands of supplies, including mobile bridges, satellite phones, electric generators, water purification systems and dialysis centers, said the officials.

To meet these needs, the United Nations is sending dozens of satellite phones from New York and Geneva, said Alicia Barcena, the executive-secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) based in Chile's capital city of Santiago.

The UN World Food Program (WFP) has offered 30 tons of food, ready to be transported from nearby Ecuador.

Speaking to reporters in New York via telephone, Barcena commended the Chilean government for being "very efficient, very well-organized ... very quick to respond."

With about 1,000 personnel, ECLAC reported 64 of its staff are missing, but no casualties, she said.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reported Monday it has dispatched a disaster management expert to Chile, whose health services have been severely disrupted by the devastating earthquake.

The health network in the country's north is operating normally, with hospitals still functioning in the metropolitan area of Santiago.

However, health services in the south is in trouble due to many collapsed hospitals.

The Chilean Air Force have set up four field hospitals, which could hold as many as 60 patients. Countries like Argentina are helping building these facilities.

(Xinhua News Agency March 2, 2010)