5 Mar 2010

Rebuilding of Chile expected to take years

7:13 am on 5 March 2010

President Michelle Bachelet says reconstruction of Chile will take "three to four years" as the country recovers from the earthquake that killed some 800 people.

She told Chilean radio there are here are rural areas where "everything has tumbled to the ground... infrastructure has been destroyed".

She added would take international aid and most of the next government's mandate to rebuild.

President-elect Sebastian Pinera is due to take over from her next week.

The cost of the damage, which Ms Bachelet described as "enormous", has so far been estimated at between $US15 - 30 billion.

Mr Pinera said his government would be one of reconstruction, with a plan of four clear stages: "to cope with the emergency needs of citizens, find people who are still missing, provide prompt and timely assistance to the sick and wounded, and restore law and order so that people can return to peace".

The BBC reports strong aftershocks of magnitude 5.5 and higher were felt in several cities on Wednesday, including Santiago.

An 18-hour nightly curfew remains in place in Concepcion, Chile's second largest city, and six other towns badly affected by the earthquake.

About two million people are believed to have been affected by the magnitude 8.8 earthquake on Saturday. It was the worst disaster to befall Chile in 50 years.

The epicentre of the quake was 115km north-east of Concepcion and 325km south-west of the capital Santiago.

About 1.5 million homes in Chile have been damaged. Most of the collapsed buildings were of older design - including many historic structures.