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A relief expert at World Vision said the massive earthquake that struck off the coast of Chile Saturday morning presents different challenges to relief workers than the recent earthquake in Haiti, according to the Christian Post.

Haiti was concentrated and that led to the challenge of tons of aid and hundreds of aid workers being sent into a small zone,” said Steve Matthews of World Vision’s global rapid response team. “This quake off the Chilean coast has potential to reach remote areas and thus it will be extremely difficult to assess the number of deaths and amount of damage, but we can expect that children and families will have taken the brunt of it.”

The magnitude 8.8 earthquake, the fifth most powerful in recorded history, struck at 3:34 a.m. local time, meaning many people were asleep and didn’t have time to escape their homes. According to World Vision’s Web site, the relief organization was already distributing blankets and water containers by Saturday afternoon.

“Many houses are destroyed; even large buildings have collapsed,” said Mariela Chavarriga, emergency adviser for World Vision in Chile. “Main roads have been destroyed and communication is very difficult. We are trying to connect with our regional offices but all the phone lines are down.”

The death toll for the earthquake has risen past 700 people and is expected to grow, but numbers are not expected to get near as high as the recent quake in Haiti, in spite of the fact that the Chilean quake was far more powerful. The location of the earthquake and the higher building codes in Chile account for a lower death toll, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. [, 2/28/10;, 2/28/10;, 2/28/10]

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