World rallies to quake-hit chile

PARIS - The US and Europe have vowed to come to Chile's aid as relief workers rushed to the western hemisphere's secondenormous earthquake in seven weeks.

PARIS - The US and Europe have vowed to come to Chile's aid as relief workers rushed to the western hemisphere's secondenormous earthquake in seven weeks.

But the Latin American country, reeling from the deaths of at least 300 people and a trail of destruction caused by Saturday's 8.8-magnitude quake, appealed for foreign donors to wait until the scale of the task was clear.

Foreign Minister Mariano Fernandez said yesterday: "We are very grateful for people's good intentions, but let's let the (Chilean) emergency office get its very specific report on needs done."

Chile does not want "aid from anywhere to be a distraction" from disaster relief, he said.

"Any aid that arrives without having been determined to be needed really helps very little." At least 1,5million homes were damaged in the pre-dawn quake, roads were torn up and buildings reduced to rubble in the nation of about 17million people.

The main international airport in the capital Santiago suffered heavy damage.

Much of Santiago was plunged into darkness. The country's second largest city Concepcion, south of the capital, was near the epicentre of the quake, one of the largest on record.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said it had unblocked $279 000 (R2,1million) from its emergency funds to help the relief efforts in Chile.

US President Barack Obama pledged to meet any request for help from Chile, while the EU offered $4million (about R30million) in immediate aid and Australia and South Korea also pledged assistance. - Sapa-AFP

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