Chilean probe uncovers naval negligence, coverup in 2010 tsunami

2013-02-07 21:30:27 GMT2013-02-08 05:30:27(Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

SANTIAGO, Feb. 7 (Xinhua) -- Officials investigating the handling of the February 2010 tsunami that killed more than a hundred Chileans has uncovered negligence and a coverup on the part of the navy, media reports said Thursday.

A report by the Investigative Police (PDI) says records kept by the Chilean Navy's Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service (Shoa) on the earthquake and ensuing tsunami were later altered.

The report, submitted Tuesday to the General Attorney's office, says the logbook's original entry was erased and rewritten.

Investigators said the entry "tsunami emergency warning" is logged at 3:40 am, when at that hour the agency had dismissed any danger of a tsunami in a report sent to then President Michelle Bachelet.

The original entry, according to the investigators, said "03. 55 Zafarrancho," naval jargon indicating trouble and meaning roughly "all hands on deck."

Around that same time, several towns along Chile's south- central coastline were already being battered by monstrous waves.

In the early hours of Feb. 27, 2010, a magnitude 8.8 earthquake, the sixth-strongest quake ever recorded, hit Chile, sparking a tsunami that took coastal residents by surprise, because the navy' s Shoa emergency service had failed to warn them of the imminent danger.

The PDI report additionally claims mistakes and negligence on the part of Chilean Navy officials along the affected region, especially a lack of concern for the victims' welfare.

Navy personnel "at no time showed a willingness to go out and carry out an evacuation of the coastal sector ... or any attempt to rescue the people trapped on the islands" off the coast, the report alleges.

Among the officials called to account for the tragic aftermath of the tsunami is Bachelet, as the ultimate authority at the time, but the accusation has political overtones, since the report was ordered by the current conservative government of Sebastian Pinera, and Bachelet is a likely contender in 2014 elections as the liberal candidate.

Official figures say 360 people died in the earthquake and 156 people were killed by the tsunami, while 25 bodies were never found and thousands of homes were washed away.

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