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700 died in quake, tsunami, Chile says

A woman swept the floor of her home in Retiro, Chile, on Monday. The quake caused nearly $30 billion in damage. A woman swept the floor of her home in Retiro, Chile, on Monday. The quake caused nearly $30 billion in damage. (Martin Mejia/Associated Press)
Associated Press / March 17, 2010

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SANTIAGO, Chile — The earthquake and tsunami that struck Chile last month killed 700 people and caused nearly $30 billion in damage, according to the government. And the ground hasn’t stopped shaking.

A magnitude-6.7 aftershock rocked south-central Chile on Monday night, adding to the raw nerves and mounting damage caused by the Feb. 27 quake.

Chile’s interior minister, Rodrigo Hinzpeter, updated the known death and damage toll yesterday, saying 200 people previously listed as missing would be added to the count of 500 dead.

“In economic terms, this is the worst catastrophe Chile has suffered,’’ Hinzpeter added. He estimated that the damage could reach nearly $30 billion, with insurance covering just $5 billion to $8 billion.

Public Works Minister Hernan de Solminihac said it will cost some $1.46 billion to restore public infrastructure.

Higher taxes on mining operations may be one way to cover the public costs, Hinzpeter said. Conservative lawmakers have rejected the idea of a higher tax burden on the country’s crucial mining sector.

Chile’s center-left coalition is demanding greater efforts to help the millions of Chileans affected by the catastrophe.