Switzerland is sending experts to help with humanitarian efforts in Chile after an earthquake rocked the country and triggered tsunami warnings around the Pacific.
A massive 8.8-magnitude quake has killed at least 122 people after it toppled buildings, knocked out cell phone communication and left portions of the country in a “state of catastrophe”, as Chilean President Michelle Bachelet declared.
The Swiss foreign ministry said on Saturday that it would send experts already based in South America to the scene. They are expected to arrive on Sunday and will determine once on the ground how best to help. Chile has not requested assistance.
Ministry spokesman Erik Reumann said it was still too early to tell if any Swiss had been injured or killed in the earthquake. Humanitarian workers are in contact with the Swiss embassy in Chile to provide information as it surfaces, he said.
Seismologists have recorded numerous aftershocks following the earthquake that struck shortly after 3 a.m. local time more than 30km underground and about 100km from Concepción south of Santiago. Some of those shocks have been as strong as 6.9 on the Richter scale. The earthquake that leveled Haiti on January 12 had a magnitude of 7.0.
Tsunami warnings were issued for much of the Pacific, including Hawaii, where waves could hit all of the islands around midnight Swiss time. How big those waves might be cannot be predicted.
The largest earthquake ever recorded registered 9.5 on the Richter scale. It happened in 1960, also in Chile.
swissinfo.ch and agencies