1 Mar 2010

No New Zealanders thought to be injured in quake

8:12 pm on 1 March 2010

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) says there are no reports of any New Zealand casualties following a powerful earthquake in Chile.

The 8.8 magnitude quake hit at 3.34am (local time) on Saturday, with its epicentre 115km north-east of Concepcion, Chile's second city. The death toll stood at 708 on Monday.

MFAT says it has so far made contact with 230 New Zealanders thought to be in Chile and is still trying to get in touch with another 40.

Meanwhile, the father of a New Zealand schoolgirl in Chile says it was a huge relief to hear that she is safe.

James Hamilton told Nine to Noon on Monday that his 17-year-old daughter Jess Alison arrived in Chile only the day before the quake to begin a student exchange.

She was staying 50km south of the capital Santiago when the quake occurred.

Mr Hamilton said he was told his daughter was safe by the AFS exchange organisation, but has not yet been able to talk to her.

However, the girl has been in contact with her brother via the social networking website Facebook.

Chilean hotline

A spokesperson for the Chilean embassy in Wellington says a telephone number has been set up to connect ex-pats in New Zealand with the National Emergency Office in Santiago.

The phone number is: 0056 2 242 5366 and other details can be found on the embassy's website.