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U.S. Works To Deliver Earthquake Aid To Chile

The U.S. ambassador to Chile says Washington has moved to deliver items requested by Chile in the wake of Saturday's deadly earthquake.

Paul Simons told NPR's Michele Norris that the U.S. received the first detailed request for assistance Monday from the Chilean government. Three of those items — mobile satellite phones, field hospitals and water-purification equipment — are already en route. Other items on the list include temporary bridges, electricity generating sets, emergency field shelters, dialysis equipment and portable kitchens.

"We're taking a look carefully to try to line up, in terms of inventories, the other five areas that they've requested," Simons said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Chile for a brief visit Tuesday, bearing a batch of 25 satellite phones for coordinating rescue efforts, the first installment of a much larger U.S. aid package.

Three days after the quake that killed nearly 800 people, Chile's president tried to assure the public that order was being restored in the city of Concepcion, after days of widespread looting. In the capital, Santiago, the situation was markedly different.

"This is the tale of two earthquakes," Simons told Norris.

President Michelle Bachelet said Concepcion was under control a day after thousands of troops were deployed.

Simons said the Santiago area was returning fairly rapidly to normalcy, while in Concepcion and other parts of the country, "there's some serious issues with public security."

"We have a very, very serious relief and reconstruction challenge in the area closer to the epicenter of the earthquake, and that's really where the relief efforts are focused," Simons said.

Simons also defended the Chilean government's response to the quake, noting that it is usually an aid donor rather than an aid recipient.

"I think the Chileans have moved rather quickly in terms of reaching out to the international community," he said. "At the same time, Chile is not a country that has these traditional donor relationships.

"Chile is a donor itself," Simons said. "I think the situation is a little similar to what the U.S. experienced during Hurricane Katrina. ... They're accustomed to fixing problems on their own."

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