Chilean troops are struggling to keep control in the wake of Saturday's massive earthquake as organised gangs loot supermarkets, set fire to buildings and raid homes.
By Aislinn Laing
Published: 1:17PM GMT 02 Mar 2010
Its second-largest city of Concepcíon resembled a war zone in places as military armoured personnel carriers rumbled through the streets and soldiers used tear gas and water cannons to dispel the crowds.
Thick black smoke and flames were visible after looters set fire to two supermarkets. One person and 160 people arrested as troops and police clamped down on the disorder, which was replicated across other towns in the affected zone.
Meanwhile, rescuers in Concepcíon fought to pull the last remaining survivors from the rubble of a 40-storey building which collapsed.
The UN's humanitarian coordination office (OCHA) said Chile had asked for field hospitals, mobile bridges, communications equipment and disaster assessment teams.
President-elect Sebastian Pinera, who is due to take power on March 11, toured the area and said the situation was "worse than expected". US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is due to arrive later today to discuss aid needs.
In coastal areas, stories began to emerge of the devastation caused by the tsunami which followed the 8.8-magnitude earthquake.
Eyewitnesses told of three metre-high waves sweeping away houses, people and in one case, a minibus carrying 40 holidaymakers who were trying to escape to higher ground.
A total of 723 people are now confirmed dead following the quake – one of the largest ever on record – and a further two million people have been affected.
With 1.5m homes destroyed and continuing aftershocks, many Chilean families have been forced to live outside under makeshift tents and food, water and medical supplies are growing increasingly scarce.
Deputy interior minister Patricio Rosende said the government had purchased all the food in Concepcíon's main shops so it could be distributed for free, and a barge and two Chilean air force planes were expected later with more supplies.
Another small plane bringing aid to the city crashed on Monday, killing all six people on board, according to media reports.
Locals complained that police were guarding some supermarkets which were still fully-stocked when people were going hungry.
"It would be fine if they distributed things, or at least sold them to us," Carmen Norin, 42, added.
Police fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse a crowd that descended on the Bigger supermarket and set fire to the building after they were prevented from entering.
One volunteer was injured as the roof collapsed and firefighters rescued another man who emerged from the building screaming and covered in flames.
Looters also raided a fire station looking for water and gasoline.
"We understand that people need to eat, but looting hospitals and clinics ... How can we serve our people?" said Conception fire department chief Jaime Jara.
A night-time curfew between 9pm and 6am remained in force and 7,000 troops are reported to be on the ground at present.
Residents said they had still be forced to organise their own security patrols, claiming that prisoner from the nearby Manzano prison were also on the run.
"Government help has been so slow to arrive," said Caroline Contreras, a 36-year-old teacher.
"The soldiers just arrived and haven't been able to control the situation. The neighbours where I live are organising to defend themselves because people are starting to rob houses."
While two British couples who were feared missing have now made contact with their families, there is still no word from Tina Cadwallader Lopes, her Portuguese husband Wallace Lopes, and their two children Isabella, 10, and Joshua, five.
They were staying in the resort of Pichilemu and were listed as missing along with Perran "Pez" Hall, 31, a surfer from Nancledra, Cornwall, on the website of The Surfer's Cottage residence.
Further north, a group of 40 retirees on holiday at a seaside campground in the village of Pelluhue attempted to flee the advancing wave by minibus, only to be dragged out to sea along with houses and vegetation.
Firefighters said on Monday that five of their bodies had been recovered and the rest are still missing.
Most residents in Pelluhue, where 300 homes were destroyed, knew about the threat of tsunamis and ran along a well-marked evacuation route.
One, Claudio Escalona, 43, fled his home with his wife and daughters, ages four and six.
"We ran through the highest part of town, yelling, 'Get out of your homes!"' he said. "About 20 minutes later came three waves, two of them huge, about six meters (18 feet) each, and a third even bigger. That one went into everything."
"You could hear the screams of children, women, everyone. There were the screams, and then a tremendous silence."
In the village of Dichato, just south of Pichilemu, teenagers drinking on the beach raised the alarm when they saw a horseshoe-shaped bay empty around one hour after the quake.
As they ran through the streets screaming, police joined them using megaphones.
As the water rose, it lifted houses clean off their foundations and stacked cars three high in the streets.
"The maritime radio said there wouldn't be a tsunami," said survivor Rogilio Reyes.
Dichato Mayor Eduardo Aguilera said 49 people were missing and 800 homes were destroyed. By Monday, fourteen bodies had been found.
The fishing village, which was previously popular with tourists, is now cut off by road and residents are entering their fourth day without any outside aid.