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Chile to investigate tsunami warning failures

2010-03-17 15:12 BJT

Special Report: 8.8 Magnitude Earthquake Hits Chile |

SANTIAGO, March 16 (Xinhua) -- The Chilean justice authorities will investigate why a tsunami warning was too early canceled in the wake of a massive quake while the tsunami later caused a significant loss of life and property, the Supreme Court said Tuesday.

The Navy Oceanography Service (SHOA) and the emergency management agency had issued a tsunami warning after an 8.8-magnitude quake hit Chile on Feb. 27. However, the warning was canceled one hour later, and the tsunami that followed badly hit the coastal villages and left hundreds of people killed or missing.

"The fact that the warnings were not issued in an adequate manner justifies an inquiry," national prosecutor Sabas Chahuan said Tuesday. "I'm preparing the opening of an inquiry."

He added he expected the investigation to get underway immediately.

SHOA chief Mariano Rojas was fired from his post less than a week after the quake, while the head of Chile's emergency management agency, Carmen Fernandez, resigned on March 10.

Fernandez said ahead of her resignation that the agency had a breakdown in communications and became "blind and speechless."

She said the intelligence the agency received after the quake was very vague and inaccurate, and nobody was able to make a decision to issue a tsunami warning.

Commander of Chief of the Chilean Navy Edmundo Gonzalez acknowledged that the information transmitted to the presidency via the SHOA was "very unclear."

Two hours after the quake, then-president Michelle Bachelet phoned the navy and asked whether the tsunami warning was still necessary, but the navy didn't even know how to answer, he said.

Statistics showed the twin disasters, the earthquake and the tsunami, have killed almost 500 people and caused an estimated 30 billion U.S. dollars in damage to infrastructure in Chile.


Editor: Zhang Pengfei | Source: Xinhua