Latin America & Caribbean

Chile marks earthquake anniversary amid disputes

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Media captionChileans have been marking the anniversary of last year's earthquake

Chileans have been marking the anniversary of last year's earthquake, which killed more than 500 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless.

Commemorations were led by President Sebastian Pinera, who stressed the progress made in reconstruction.

But there were also protests by people who say the government has not done enough to help quake victims.

The earthquake on 27 February 2010 had a magnitude of 8.8 - one of the biggest ever recorded.

Across Chile, people lit candles and prayed in memory of the dead, and observed a minute's silence at the exact moment the earthquake struck.

President Pinera attended a ceremony in the town of Constitucion, which was badly hit by the earthquake and the tsunami which followed.

He acknowledged that some Chileans were not happy with the pace of reconstruction, but said his government was doing "everything humanly possible" to help people rebuild their communities.

Nearby, a small group of demonstrators waved black flags and balloons in protest at what they say is the slow pace of reconstruction.

Similar protests were held in several other towns in the disaster zone.

Political dispute

The Chilean government says that around 60% of the 220,000 homes destroyed in the quake have been rebuilt, repaired, or been given a subsidy for construction.

Image caption Some earthquake victims say the pace of reconstruction has been too slow

But the centre-left opposition coalition disputes these statistics, and boycotted official commemorations in protest at what it says is a slow and inefficient rebuilding process.

President Pinera - who took office 13 days after the earthquake - has criticised the previous government for its response to the disaster, in particular the failure to issue a proper tsunami warning.

Former President Michelle Bachelet on Sunday defended her record, and urged Mr Pinera to "govern and not seek to allocate blame for the past."

She also promised full cooperation with an inquiry into why a tsunami warning was withdrawn before giant waves smashed coastal communities.

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