Chile quake death toll lowered in revision

Times Staff

The Chilean government said Thursday that correcting errors in tabulating the victims in Saturday’s devastating earthquake may reduce the death toll, even as a second, unrelated temblor shook northern Chile.

President Michelle Bachelet said the number of missing was added to the number of dead in Maule, the hardest-hit province. The death toll there was revised to 315 from about 565.

Overall, the government previously said that slightly more than 800 people were confirmed dead.

The new information from Maule could reduce the final nationwide toll to about 550, but officials cautioned that many people were still missing and a count was far from complete.

Deputy Interior Minister Patricio Rosende read to reporters a list of 279 dead who had been identified.

Scores, if not hundreds, of people were washed out to sea by giant tsunami waves that crashed into Chile’s southern and central coast in the hours after the earthquake. The count has been complicated as bodies have started to wash ashore.

Meanwhile, the military and civilian authorities are trading blame for why Chile did not issue a tsunami warning.

Thursday afternoon, however, an apparently unrelated quake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.4 jolted northern Chile. It was felt in the capital, Santiago, where buildings swayed.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries. It was centered 780 miles north of Santiago and 1,000 miles north of the epicenter of Saturday’s quake, news agencies reported.