VALPARAÍSO, Chile – Chilean President Sebastián Piñera declared a state of catastrophe for central region Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins on March 11, just hours after he was sworn into office during an inauguration that was disrupted by aftershocks. “Our emergency teams are already on their way to Rancagua,” the capital of Bernardo O'Higgins, Piñera told reporters, according to Chinese news agency Xinhua. “This government will not hesitate to take the measures needed.” He said his administration is prepared to deploy troops to the region to make sure order is maintained after looters pillaged several cities, including Concepción, after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake on Feb. 27. The looting was so widespread that then-President Michelle Bachelet sent 14,000 troops four days after the tremor to quell the pandemonium. Twenty-one minutes before Piñera’s inauguration, the country was rocked by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake, and 25 minutes later two aftershocks – measuring 6.9 and 6.0 on the Richter scale – put the event in jeopardy. The inauguration lasted just 34 minutes. The earthquake’s epicenter was in Rancagua, near the country’s coast, located in Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins, 71 miles from the National Congress, which housed the inauguration, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
Chile's emergency chief quits because of mistakes during earthquake’s aftermath
Carmen Fernández resigned as the head of Chile's emergency management agency Onemi on March 10, claiming she was too slow to respond to the massive earthquake and tsunamis that blasted her nation, according to Agence France-Presse. Fernández is the second Chilean official to become unemployed as a result of the catastrophe that killed close to 500 on Feb. 27. Then-President Michelle Bachelet fired Commander Mariano Rojas, the head of the navy's oceanography service, last week for failing to give the country a proper warning of the impending disasters, according to AFP. “We were blind and speechless” in the few hours after the earthquake erupted,” Fernández said days ago. “We had a breakdown in communications and I acknowledge that.”
Chile’s mining and refineries unscathed by recent aftershocks
Chilean officials said the mining and refinery sectors weren’t damaged by the series of strong aftershocks that reverberated across the nation on March 11. Officials from Codelco and Anglo American said all their mines were left unscathed after the seven tremors – including one that registered 6.9 on the Richter scale and had an epicenter near the southern-central area of the country, the same site from where the 8.8-magnitude earthquake originated on Feb. 27. The mines also didn’t sustain damage from the most recent aftershocks that hit Rancagua, a city near Codelco’s giant underground mine El Teniente. “We do not have any reports of damage,” a Codelco spokeswoman said to Reuters. The majority of mines in Chile, the world’s leading copper producer, are in the northern part of the country, which is far away from the areas that were hardest hit by the earthquake. El Teniente and Andina, Codelco's second- and third-largest mines based on production with a combined output of 614,000 tons last year, were closed for a brief time after the Feb. 27 earthquake. “Everything is normal, no problems,” Marcelo Esquivel, Anglo American's spokesman, told Reuters. “There was no damage to the operations in the central region.”