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Chile Earthquake Aftershocks Rattle New President’s Inauguration

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Chilean FlagA 7.2-magnitude earthquake shook Chile again Thursday just before the country prepared to swear in its new president.

Thursday’s earthquake was stronger than the 7.0-magnitude quake that devastated Haiti in January. Soon after, two aftershocks measuring 6.9 and 6.0 rattled the foreign dignitaries and journalists on hand for the inauguration.

The tremors were a fitting reminder to everyone present at the ceremony that reconstruction will be the new president’s top priority. But what will he have on his agenda?

On the night he won the election, President Sebastian Pinera, a billionaire investor and Harvard-trained economist, vowed to focus on accelerating economic growth, creating jobs, and cracking down on crime.

But after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake rocked Chile in late February, Pinera’s top priority will be picking up the pieces after the country’s worst natural disaster in 50 years.

Last month’s earthquake killed more than 500 people, destroyed at least 500,000 homes and did major damage to roads and hospitals. Officials estimate that repairs could cost between $20 billion to $30 billion.

Read more about the previous earthquake in Chile with: Chile Earthquake Sparks Minor Tsunami But Major Damage

Chilean Soldiers in a Military ParadeThe new president has vowed to devote the initial stages of his presidency to upgrading and replacing the industrial and public infrastructure in the areas hardest hit by the earthquake. In the meantime, more soldiers will be deployed the center of new devastation to maintain order.

Pinera had initially planned to retool the hospital infrastructure for all of Chile, but that project will be pushed back while the government focuses on medical institutions that sustained the heaviest damage.

Pinera has already scheduled a visit to Constitution, a city that saw its scenic downtown area devastated by a tsunami.

Immediately following Thursday’s aftershocks, the Chilean Navy issued a tsunami warning and urged Chileans to seek higher ground.

By Dan Bence for PeterGreenberg.com.

Related Links: Miami Herald, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, CNN

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