CONCEPCION, Chile, March 1 (UPI) -- More than 700 people died due to the earthquake that shook Chile Saturday with the toll expected to climb as rescue operations continue.
The death toll is officially 708 but is considered very preliminary as the destruction caused by the 8.8-magnitude quake is weighed. The temblor was centered about 70 miles northeast of Concepcion, the second-largest city in Chile.
Damage in Concepcion was extensive but there were hundreds of deaths associated with a tsunami that swept across the coastal town of Constitucion.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said, "We face a catastrophe of such unthinkable magnitude that it will require a giant effort to recover."
She ordered the military to keep order in affected regions, where people resorted to looting to get food. Bachelet also said Chile is open to international offers of medical and transportation aid.
Thousands of people slept outside, fearful the strong aftershocks -- one was reported at 6.9 magnitude -- would cause damaged buildings to collapse. An estimated 1.5 million buildings were at least heavily damaged.
The quake was about 1,000 times as strong as the Jan. 12 quake that devastated Haiti. The death toll there is estimated at 230,000. But Chile is a much more affluent nation than Haiti and better prepared, especially in terms of construction techniques, than Haiti, so the overall toll, as severe as it will be, isn't expected to reach Haitian proportions.