Chilean President accused incompetence

Critics say President Michelle Bachelet failed to grasp level of devastation

As the first supplies began trickling into thecountry’s
worst-affected areas, the outgoing President was subjected to a storm of anger
for her government’s failed response to the disaster.

Critics said the 58 year-old’s government had failed to grasp the true
scale of the tragedy, had poorly managed law and order and rescue efforts and
had initially refused offers of international aid.

Amid mounting anger the beleaguered Chilean President, who was sent a
message of condolence from the Queen, denied on Wednesday that there was a risk
of fuel or food shortages after the weekend’s powerful 8.8-magnitude
earthquake.

Mrs Bachelet admitted the devastation was “worse than expected” with
many towns and villages completely cut off and many Chileans forced to sleep in
the streets.

She went onto say rescue efforts were slow because of mangled roads,
downed bridges and power cuts.

“People probably are always going to feel that we could have done
things better. You can always feel that things could have been done better but
the truth is it will always be insufficient,” she said.

“There is no shortage, there is enough food and therefore we must remain
calm.

Jacqueline Van Rysselberghe, the
mayor of Concepcíon, the country’s second largest city, accused the president,
whose approval rating hit 83 per cent late last month, of failing to act fast
enough to bring order to the chaos.

There weren’t enough troops to
restore calm and efforts to distribute food, water and temporary shelter have
fallen short, she said.

“Help is starting to arrive in the
area, but unfortunately it’s late,” she told Chile radio.

La Terceira, an influential daily,
on Wednesday said Mrs Bachelet’s government had shown “incomprehensible
weakness and slowness” at maintaining law and order and co-ordinating relief
operations for thousands of homeless and hungry.

El Mercurio, a conservative
publication many consider Chile’s paper of record, called on billionaire
President-elect Sebastian Pinera, who takes office next week, to “restore hope”
to Chile.

A total of 799 people have been confirmed dead, a further two million people
have been affected and an estimated 1.5 million homes destroyed.

WORLDchileSTORY

An officer searches for victims of a massive flooding following the Chilean earthquake in San Antonio, Chile Wednesday.
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