Civilization is hideously fragile... there's not much between us and the Horrors underneath, just about a coat of varnish. ~C.P. Snow
CONCEPCION, Chile, March 2 (Reuters) -
Chilean authorities extended a curfew in the country's second-biggest city on Tuesday as troops struggled to contain worsening looting and crime in the wake of a devastating earthquake.
A night-time curfew in the badly damaged city of Concepcion was extended until midday after looters burned stores and residents complained of deteriorating security and slow government delivery of food and other basic supplies.
Despite the arrival of thousands of troops to reinforce local police, authorities were struggling to restore order in the city that bore the brunt of Saturday morning's 8.8-magnitude quake that killed at least 723 people.
Residents in Concepcion said they were organizing groups to defend their properties from robbers and looters, who the city's mayor said on Monday were becoming more organized.
"Government help has been so slow to arrive," said Caroline Contreras, a 36-year-old teacher.
"The soldiers just arrived and haven't been able to control the situation. The neighbors where I live are organizing to defend themselves because people are starting to rob houses."
President Michelle Bachelet, who condemned the "pillage and criminality," dispatched 7,000 soldiers to the region and imposed curfews to restore order, saying her government was sending emergency food and medicine supplies.
The devastating quake struck as Latin America's most stable economy was trying to recover from a recession brought on by the global financial crisis. The total economic damage from the quake could exceed $15 billion, the catastrophe risk firm AIR Worldwide said.