VALPARAISO - Chile's President Sebastian Pinera declared a state of catastrophe for central region O' Higgins on Thursday, less than two hours after taking office, after a series of strong aftershocks hit the region.
"Our emergency teams are already on their way to Rancagua," the capital of O'Higgins, Pinera told media from Valparaiso, just after taking office at the Congress. "This government will not hesitate to take the measures needed," he added.
Pinera said that the new government has ready sent troops to the area to prevent a breakdown of public order. After Chile's February 27 earthquake, which registered 8.8 degrees on the Richter scale, residents of Chile's second city Constitucion saw raids by residents on supermarkets and warehouses that lasted until 14,000 troops were deployed four days later.
The three strong aftershocks, measuring 7.2, 6.9 and 6.0 on the Richter scale, shook Valparaiso, the capital Santiago and the regions of Maule and Bio Bio that were hit hardest by the February 27 quake.
Officials reported that a footbridge collapsed over a highway leading into O'Higgin's capital, Ranagua. The United States Geology Service said that there were six earth movements in all, the three weakest have a magnitude of between 4.9 and 5.4, which most people could not feel.