Chile earthquake death toll revised down to 279

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Santiago (Chile), Mar 5(ANI): The official death toll from the massive 8.8 earthquake that devastated Chile on February 27 has been sharply revised down by the country's government.

The initial figures had 802 people as dead, but that number has now been reduced to 279.

The government has not offered any explanation, but announced an official three-day period of national mourning from Sunday.

The massive quake had plunged much of national capital Santiago into darkness, snapping power lines and severing communications. The international airport was also closed after sustaining significant damage to a terminal.

Many Chileans were still in nightclubs partying at the start of the weekend when the quake struck before dawn, ripping up roads, bringing roofs crashing down and toppling power lines.

The economic damage is likely to range between 15 billion and 30 billion dollars, a US risk modeling firm has predicted.

Chilean Foreign Minister Mariano Fernandez had earlier asked countries to hold off aid until the local authorities could assess emergency needs.

The US Geological Survey said it had recorded over 51 aftershocks ranging from 4.9 to 6.9 on the Richter scale since the quake.

Earthquake-prone Chile lies along the Pacific Rim of fire and is regularly rocked by quakes, but damage is often to remote desert regions.

It was the second major earthquake to hit the Western Hemisphere in seven weeks after more than 200,000 people were killed in Haiti last month by a 7.0-magnitude quake.

The epicenter was just a few hundred miles north of the biggest earthquake on record, a 9.5-magnitude monster that took place in May 1960, killing between 2,200 and 5,700 people and triggered a huge tsunami that reached as far as eastern New Zealand. (ANI)

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