The Chilean government ordered a curfew today in the capital to prevent looting as the toll from an earthquake yesterday passed 130 killed and neared 2,000 injured.
Although thousands of homeless families were sleeping in streets and city squares, unable or unwilling to return to their houses while the tremors continued, military authorities ordered everyone to remain indoors from midnight until 5 a.m. to counter looting or other disorders.
Official reports said almost 8,000 people were homeless in Santiago, the coastal cities of Valparaiso, Vina del Mar and San Antonio, and a string of small towns in the thin waist of Chile that bore the brunt of the quake.
Visitors to Melipilla and Curacavi said most of the adobe houses had collapsed, hospitals had been evacuated and the towns appeared devastated, although casualties were relatively light.
When the quake struck shortly before 8 p.m., residents of the capital rushed onto the streets to escape vibrating walls, rippling floors and shattering windows.
A police bus parked outside the Santiago town hall was crushed by rubble from the building's newly restored facade, which tumbled onto the main square. Power cuts plunged much of the central zone of the country into darkness, broken only by fires sparked by downed power lines and leaking gas.
Ambulances and fire engines raced through streets littered with bricks and dust and shattered glass, as aftershocks struck regularly spreading more panic.
Vacationers returning to the capital from the coast at the end of their summer break saw cracks open up in roads. Landslides, damaged bridges and blocked tunnels caused long jams while in the cities, broken traffic lights and drivers hurrying home caused dozens of accidents.
Flights from the international airport at Pudahuel resumed, although the roof of the main passenger terminal had crashed onto the restaurant.
Government and church leaders appealed to those unscathed to contribute to the relief effort. There was no estimate of the cost of the destruction.
Copper production at El Teniente mine south of here was interrupted and the main ports of Valparaiso and San Antonio were badly damaged.