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Chilean president on defensive after earthquake

CONCEPCIÓN, Chile - President Michelle Bachelet defended herself yesterday against charges of government incompetence in a disaster that not only shattered lives and property but challenged the nation's very identity.

A society built on pride in its wealth and orderliness found itself suddenly facing gangs of rioters, a wounded economy and a shaken sense of civic responsibility after Saturday's 8.8-magnitude quake. A government that sent 15 tons of food and medicine, a search and rescue team and 20 doctors to Haiti found itself seeking emergency aid from other countries. Bachelet was on the defensive against a storm of claims that the government's response to the disaster was a failure.

The government extended an 8 p.m.-to-noon curfew to 6 p.m. and sent 14,000 troops to Concepción and surrounding areas to stop widespread looting.

The death toll rose to 796 and aftershocks continued to roll through the region. - AP

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