Chile ex-president Michelle Bachelet sued over tsunami

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Former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, 28 January 2011
Image caption,
Ms Bachelet left office a month after the earthquake and tsunami

A Chilean court has allowed a lawsuit to proceed against the former president, Michelle Bachelet, over failings in Chile's tsunami warning system during last year's earthquake.

More than 500 people died in the 27 February 2010 earthquake and the tsunami which followed.

Coastal villages were smashed by giant waves after the government lifted an initial tsunami warning.

The case is being brought by a lawyer for some victims of the disaster.

The lawyer, Raul Meza Rodriguez, accuses Ms Bachelet and other senior officials of "denial of assistance" over the tsunami which struck after the 8.8 magnitude earthquake.

He alleges the former president "made decisions she was not qualified to make".

He says she and other officials involved did not have the basic technical understanding needed to decide when to order or lift a tsunami warning.

The lawsuit also names former Interior Minister Edmundo Perez, former Defence Minister Francisco Vidal, the former deputy interior minister, Patricio Rosende, and Carmen Fernandez, the ex-head of Onemi - the national emergencies office.

It is seeking to have the defendants banned from future public office.

The Chilean Navy - which runs the Hydrographic and Oceanographic Service - admitted after the tsunami that it had made errors in its diagnosis and given unclear information to government officials.

The government issued an alert, then deactivated it, then revived it only after the deadly waves had struck.

An official inquiry began shortly after President Sebastian Pinera took over from Ms Bachelet in March.

Ms Bachelet has since taken on a new role as head of a UN gender equality agency, UN Women.