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Chile to prosecute workers over lack of tsunami warning
by Staff Writers
Santiago (AFP) Feb 10, 2012

Chile's attorney general announced Friday that eight emergency warning workers would be prosecuted for failing to notify the public about a deadly tsunami in February 2010.

The tsunami that struck south-central Chile resulted from an 8.8 magnitude earthquake. The earthquake and tsunami together killed 523 people, at least 156 of them from the tsunami alone.

Evidence indicates "criminal negligence... in the performance of a group of people for their participation in decision-making by technical agencies charged with issuing and disseminating tsunami warnings to the population," the attorney general said in a statement.

The attorney general asked Santiago's Seventh Court of Guarantee for a hearing to communicate the reasons for the prosecution to the eight suspects.

The defendants include the former director of the National Emergency Office and Chile's former interior deputy, both of whom were appointed under the administration of former president Michelle Bachelet.

A series of orders and counter-orders were sent between the Chilean navy and the National Emergency Office about the approaching tsunami, but no warning was issued to the general population in time to prevent a disaster, the attorney general's office said.

Chile's navy acknowledged a "diagnostic error" the day after the February 27, 2010 disaster and indicated it had sent "unclear" information to the president that made an alert decision difficult.

The government issued an alert, then deactivated it, and later reactivated it only after massive waves hit the Chilean coastline.

At least three huge waves struck the coastline, devastating a string of unprepared villages.

In some cases, coastal residents returned to their homes after the earthquake only to be killed by the force of the tsunami.

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