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Chilean President Calls for Reconstruction, Urges Calm as More Aftershocks Recorded

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Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on Wednesday called on the people to remain calm and urged them "to work together on the recovering of Chile," which saw a flurry of aftershocks.

"We cannot be defeated by the adversity, we are in conditions to stand up again," Bachelet said after a meeting with directors of the Production and Commerce Confederation (CPC).

She said the reconstruction of the country "is everybody's work" and at this moment her government is focusing on tackling the emergency, adding the main task is to restore basic services as soon as possible at the most affected zones.

The president said the private sector should participate in Chile's reconstruction, since the earthquake devastated the country had killed 799 people and caused huge loses of property up to now.

Representatives of productive sectors, including industry, agriculture, trade, construction, banks and mining, headed by CPC's President Rafael Guilisasti, as well as Chilean Treasury Minister Andres Velasco, Public Works Minister Sergio Bitar and Energy Minister Marcelo Tokman, attended the meeting.

Bachelet said food and energy supply are guaranteed and basic services such as electricity and drinking water supply had began to restore in many disaster areas, which helps ease the emergency works and give the people tranquility.

The government is concentrating on "assisting the most affected people" with food, health services and water, and is working for "any person without aid after the terrible tragedy," said the president.

Bachelet also reaffirmed her objection to looting in the last days in the quake-hit areas. "We are not going to accept any people to take advantage" because stealing things like televisions are not for surviving "but a crime," she added.

The Chilean government on Tuesday extended an 8:00 PM-to-noon curfew to begin at 6:00 PM to crack down on looting in Concepcion, one of the hardest-hit cities in the Saturday quake.

Authorities also added three towns, Talca, Cauquenes and Constitucion, to the curfew list to suppress looting in those areas.

Bachelet said the CPC is making great efforts to reopen the stores that are in good conditions, mainly those having basic products.

One of the major priorities after the quake is to protect the jobs, Bachelet said.

It is important that "we use all the methods to take care and protect the jobs" and generate more jobs for the reconstruction works, Bachelet said.

"We do not want to add the drama of the unemployment ... I have no doubt about the commitment that the private sector has made," Bachelet said. Once the crisis is over, it will be the moment to stand up, she said.

Meanwhile, Guilisasti said the sectors in conditions of guaranteeing the supply of products have committed "to make all possible efforts" for the companies to return to normality.

Guilisasti hailed the efforts of the Chilean government to restore the public order in the quake-affected zones, saying the production sector works for repairing the roads, supplying basic services, fuels and products, as well as relaunching trade activities.

Guilisasti called on the citizens to "change their attitude" and stop making massive purchases.

"We share with President Bachelet the call to the people to be calm, there are conditions to supply and the connections are restored, the products will arrive to the people. There is not a reason to be alarmed, there are enough supplies," Guilisasti added.

The productive and commercial sectors are evaluating the situation, "we are sure that Chilean companies will recover their activities," Guilisasti said.

"Chile has the fiscal resources, all the resources of the companies, Chile has human capital, it has the capacity to stand up and rise, to succeed with the efforts of everybody," he added.

Meanwhile, earlier reports said two powerful aftershocks measuring 6.0 and 5.9 on the Richter scale respectively jolted Chile on Wednesday, triggering a brief tsunami alert and spurring panic among people living along the coastal area.

A new tsunami warning was heard after the two aftershocks but was lifted shortly.

The aftershocks sparked panic in the southern-central town of Concepcion. Hundreds of people rushed out their shelters to higher ground.

The people there said they would still choose to stay outside during the following days, out of fear of more aftershocks.

The 6.0-magnitude quake shook Maule, about 115 km from Concepcion, and the 5.9-magnitude quake jolted offshore Bio-Bio just seconds earlier.

Bachelet predicted earlier on Wednesday that the number of the deaths from the quake and ensuing Tsunami could exceed the 799 now counted.

The president told a local radio that more people could have died in the quake and the quake-triggered tsunami waves and the death toll is expected to rise in coming days.

Bachelet's words confirmed some local reports saying that the death toll could further go up due to the underestimated deaths in one of the hardest-hit cities of Constitucion. Some earlier local reports put the number of missing as high as 500 in Constitucion alone.

According to the National Office of Emergency, the number of affected stood at about 2 million.

Most of the deaths were registered in the Maule region with at least 554 people died. In the capital city of Santiago, which has a population of 6.2 million, 38 people were known to have died in the earthquake.

The earthquake and subsequent tsunami ravaged towns and cities along a 700-km stretch of Chile's Pacific coast. Downed bridges and damaged or debris-strewn highways made transit difficult if not impossible in many areas.

Quake-caused damage to Chile are so far estimated to be up to US$30 billion, or a fifth of the country's gross domestic product.

(Xinhua News Agency March 4, 2010)


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