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Int'l Organizations Closely Watch Chilean Situation, Offer Help

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The United Nations and other international organizations are closely monitoring situations in Chile and offering assistance after an 8.8-magnitude quake hit the southern American nation early Saturday.

Officials at UN headquarters here told Xinhua on Monday that the UN system is ready to offer rapid assistance to Chile, while aid efforts will be conducted through its Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

UN humanitarian spokeswoman Elisabeth Byrs told reporters in Geneva that the United Nations would rapidly send aid deliveries to Chile in response to the country's appeal for international aid.

She said Chile was seeking temporary bridges, field hospitals, satellite phones, electric generators, damage assessment teams, water purification systems, field kitchens and dialysis centers.

The United Nations also expressed its concerns on the health situation in the aftermath of the quake, saying in a report that Chile's health services have been severely.

In southern Chile, it said, access to health services has become a major challenge, after six hospitals collapsed and two others were severely damaged.

The Chilean Air Force is setting up four field hospitals, each holding up to 60 patients. But there may be a need for additional facilities, said the report.

It said health network in northern Chile is operating normally, with hospitals continuing to function in the metropolitan area of Santiago, the capital city.

The Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) is dispatching a disaster management expert to the South American nation to assist in the aftermath of the catastrophe.

The Washington-based Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), a part of the UN system, also noted that there is a shortage of healthcare personnel in Chile. However, those need medical assistance are now receiving it.

The PAHO has dispatched a disaster management expert to support its country office in Chile, whose facilities in Santiago sustained damage during the quake.

The office is now operating at a government building and working with the Chilean Ministry of Health to assess damage to health facilities.

A PAHO health emergency response team of than 80 trained specialists is ready to help.

The organization also called for member states to send available field hospitals and generators to Chile.

On Saturday, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent condolences to those who have lost family and friends in the quake, and wished those injured a speedy recovery.

The Santiago-based UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) said that no casualties have been identified among the 987 UN staff members and consultants working in Chile.

However, the buildings used by several agencies have been damaged, including ECLAC's headquarters.

The Paris-based UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) said on Monday that it is ready to help Chile to recover from the massive quake. It underscores the need for countries in high-risk areas to bolster their disaster risk reduction capacity.

"The earthquake that struck Chile is another distressing example of our vulnerability to natural disasters and the need for greater vigilance and preparedness," said UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.

"This is especially important for high-risk coastal communities, where there is little time for populations to receive any warning, as was sadly the case for those parts of Chile's coastline that were close to the earthquake's epicenter," she said.

She acknowledged the rapid actions taken by nations across the Pacific region to the potential for tsunamis in the wake of the quake.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning System, set up by UNESCO's Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission in the 1960s after a similar earthquake off the Chilean coast, began issuing regular warnings moments after Saturday's quake.

For its part, the Washington-based World Bank also extended its support to Chile to in the aftermath of the earthquake.

"Our thoughts are with the people of Chile at this difficult time," said World Bank President Robert Zoellick.

(Xinhua News Agency March 2, 2010)

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