A top military official in Chile admitted Tuesday his team hesitated in providing information about a possible tsunami following the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the nation during pre-dawn hours Saturday.
The death toll from the earthquake rose to 802 on Tuesday, according Chile's office of emergencies. From the total, about 600 people were killed in the regions of Maule and Biobio, which make up a coastline of about 187 miles that was swept away by the tsunami, Chile's La Nacion newspaper reports.
The army's commander in chief Edmundo González admitted on national television Tuesday that his team was unclear with the information that was delivered to the President following the earthquake.
We weren't precise enough to tell the President to keep or cancel it [the tsunami alert],... We hesitated, González told TVN, El Mercurio newspaper reported.
The declaration comes amid growing criticisms that the nation's military's emergency alert system failed to properly warn people that a tsunami might strike.
The earthquake triggered huge waves that destroyed entire towns on the Pacific coastline.
Chile's President Michelle Bachelet said unfortunately, the death toll from both the earthquake and tsunamis is likely to increase.
According to a report obtained by El Mercurio newspaper, military officials initially dismissed
that a tsunami would strike because the earthquake had happened so far inland.
The epicenter is inland, therefore there shouldn't be a tsunami, the military's hydrographic and oceanographic service told Chile's President Michelle Bachelet in a report at 5:20 a.m. Saturday, about two hours after the earthquake hit the south part of Chile, the paper reports.
On Wednesday, Chile's President Michelle Bachelet admitted the military lacked proper communication.
It requires a lot of manliness from him [Gonzalez] to acknowledge that they were unclear and precise, Bachelet said in a radio interview. I called an infinite number of times to ask if there was risk of a tsunami, what was happening, if there was alert of a tsunami or whether the alert was still active, I mean, what the overall situation was, Bachelet said today.
But addressing the criticisms, Bachelet said the country is in a time to move forward and not to find a person to blame.
We all claim to be generals after the war, Bachelet said during an interview in national radio. Enough about seeking responsibilities and not understanding that today the main problem is helping the people, she added.