Firefighters try to extinguish a fire at a restaurant by the sea shore after a powerful 8.0-magnitude earthquake hit off Chile's Pacific coast on Tuesday in Iquique. (Aldo Solimano / AFP)
The US government is prepared to help Chile if it asks for assistance in the wake of Monday’s massive earthquake and tsunami that have left at least five people dead, a White House official said.
The US Geological Survey is reporting the earthquake registered a magnitude 8.2. The quake and tsunamis happened over night, so there has been limited information so far about the extent of the damage and loss of life. The Chilean government has declared the affected area to be a disaster zone.
“We stand with our Chilean partners in the aftermath of the earthquake, and extend our sympathies and condolences to the families and loved ones of those who lost their lives,” National Security Council spokesman Jonathan Lalley said in an email Wednesday to Military Times. “The United States stands ready to help. We have long partnered with Chileans on disaster preparedness and response. Our disaster experts in Chile have been and will remain in close touch with Chilean authorities.”
As of Wednesday morning, the Chilean government had not requested any US assistance, said Lt. Cmdr. Ron Flanders, a spokesman for US Southern Command.
SOUTHCOM was in charge of relief efforts in Haiti after a Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake caused widespread damage there and killed an estimated 230,000 people. At its peak, the relief mission in Haiti involved 22,268 troops, 23 US Navy ships, 10 Coast Guard ships, 264 fixed-wing aircraft and 57 helicopters, according to SOUTHCOM’s website.