Sunday, February 28, 2010

Military Mobilizes for Earthquake Relief

Chile's armed forces are being tested on one of their principal peacetime roles: disaster relief. One of the navy's main areas of attention is the Juan Fernandez archipelago, where a tsunami ravaged several villages. The frigate Almirante Condell docked with a helicopter, marines, one doctor, nurses and other emergency workers. Army troops have taken control of Concepcion, a large city near the epicenter where looting seems to be worst. The national police force has fanned out to keep order as much as possible. But given the severe conditions, President Michele Bachelet signed a decree authorizing the army to assume policing duties in the area. Troops also will watch over food distribution. The air force is making hourly flights to Concepcion with emergency personnel and rescue crews. The navy, though, got a black eye for failing to detect the tsunami promptly enough, apparently because of faulty equipment. The navy later raised the alarm and many people were able to flee the waters. Defense Minister Francisco Vidal called it an "error."

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