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Chile earthquake: Hillary Clinton arrives with satellite phones

In the wake of the 8.8 Chile earthquake, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Chile's capital Tuesday with 20 satellite phones and a technician. The visit was part of a pre-scheduled South America trip.

By Staff writer / March 2, 2010

Chilean Earthquake: Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, left, holds one of the satellite phones that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave her to help with the relief efforts, Tuesday, during a news conference at the airport in Santiago, Chile.

Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP


Mexico City

When the 8.8 Chilean earthquake struck, most authorities – including the Chilean government – underestimated the damage.
By the next day, the death toll doubled to over 700, and the nation learned that many coastal towns were destroyed not by the earth’s movements but by giant waves generated in the aftermath. The reason for the miscalculation: there was no way to communicate from the hardest-hit areas.
While clean water, food, medical support, and rescue workers are the priorities in the hours after a catastrophe, so too are phones – so that governments can properly assess the damage, dispatch officials to hot spots, and distribute aid to those most in need.

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IN PICTURES: Images from the magnitude-8.8 earthquake in Chile

So, after opening up to foreign aid assistance, Chile’s first request to the US was communications equipment. And that’s what US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on part of a Latin America tour that was scheduled before the quake, has brought with her today as she visits Chile.

"They have asked for communications equipment, some of which I am bringing on our plane," Mrs. Clinton said in Montevideo Monday, with new Uruguayan President Jose Mujica at her side. Her load includes 20 satellite phones and a technician. One of the "biggest problems has been communications as we found in Haiti in those days after the quake,” she said.

Clinton: US 'grateful' for Chile's help to Haiti

Later Monday, speaking alongside President Michelle Bachelet in Chile's capital, Santiago, Clinton said the US is "grateful" for what Chile did to help Haiti after that country's devastating Jan. 12 earthquake. Clinton said the Chilean rescue teams were "some of the best" in the world.