Chilean Soldiers Go After Looters; Quake Death Toll Breaches 700

Already facing an uphill battle in its search for survivors, the government of quake-hit Chile faced the specter of a peace and order problem as looting incidents continue to rise. Outgoing President Michelle Bachelet has ordered the military to go after looters in the city of Concepcion, one of the areas closest to the epicenter of the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that struck the country on Saturday.

Reports said the military has arrested at least 55 people for violating a curfew imposed in Concepcion, where supermarkets and groceries have been ransacked by looters. Food and water supply is running low in Concepcion, further heightening tensions in the city of half a million people.

Meanwhile, finger pointing among government authorities have begun as the death toll from the massive quake reached more than 700, with officials saying the number could still go up. Defense Minister Francisco Vidal said the high death toll in coastal areas may have been averted had the Navy immediately issued a tsunami warning. Large waves reportedly slammed into coastal communities after the quake, with reports saying that some 300 people died in one of the country’s coastal village.