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Foreign Ministry: No Israelis Listed Among Dead in Chile Quake

No Israelis are listed among the victims of an 8.8-magnitude earthquake that hit central Chile on Saturday. At least 20 Israelis are in the area.
By Hana Levi Julian and Maayana Miskin
First Publish: 2/28/2010, 11:28 AM / Last Update: 2/28/2010, 1:22 PM

US Geological Survey

The Foreign Ministry announced Sunday morning that no Israelis are listed among the dead in the aftermath of an 8.8-magnitude earthquake that hit central Chile on Saturday.

At least 20 Israelis are known to be backpacking in the area where the earthquake occurred, according to ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor, who said there is no way to communicate with the region at present. Their families have still not heard from any of the Israelis in the area. In addition, there is still no word on members of the Jewish community there.

Israel is working with Chilean authorities to establish communications with Israelis in the area, Palmor said, and ministry officials are making every effort to locate them.

Carmen Fernandez, head of the National Emergency Agency, estimated the death toll is about 300, and was likely to rise, particularly in the area of Concepcion, the country's second-largest city, only 70 miles from the epicenter.

The earthquake hit Chile on Saturday, killing at least 300 people. The death toll continues to rise as more bodies are found and as reports come in from outlying areas. The Foreign Ministry reported that twenty Israeli travellers have not yet contacted their families. There is no word yet on the Jewish community in Chile.

The quake sparked fears of a tsunami around the Pacific. Scientists warned that large waves could reach as far as the eastern coast of Asia and northwestern Canada. By Sunday morning, waves had hit New Zealand, Japan and the Philippines, and tens of thousands of people were evacuated in advance.

The island state of Hawaii is expected to be hit by its largest waves since 1964.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet has called on citizens not to panic and to stay off the roads in the immediate future. The Santiago airport has been shut down.

Israel was among the nations to offer help following the disaster. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Saturday evening that Israel would offer whatever assistance is necessary. The Chilean government has said that it does not need help so far.