No Austrians injured in Chilean earthquake, say agencies

Vienna travel agency Siesta IT-Reisen and Vienna’s so-called “jumbo group” of travel agencies reported today (Mon) that no Austrians had been hurt in the Chilean earthquake.An earthquake measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale occurred off shore of Concepcion, Chile, early Saturday morning.Two Austrians were stranded on Easter Island in the Pacific Ocean because of the closing of the airport at Chilean capital Santiago de Chile.Siesta IT-Reisen noted that some Austrians in Chile would have to change their bookings back to Austria and fly out of Buenos Aires, Argentina.Andrea Schill from the jumbo group said no tourist hotels had been damaged in the earthquake and that the most damaged Chilean city, Concepcion, was not a tourist destination. The earthquake had not been felt much in popular destinations in the far south or in the northern Atacama Desert, she added.Foreign Ministry spokesman Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, who said yesterday that the ministry was trying to find out about the fate of Austrians in Chile, added today that there was no communication yet between Concepcion and the outside world and the ministry did not know how many Austrians might have been there when the earthquake had occurred.Sabine Wartha, who runs Catholic charity Caritas’ catastrophe assistance operation, said it was impossible to make contact with anyone in Concepcion on the coast via phone or even Facebook. “The damage there must be enormous, and it has affected two million people,” she noted.Launsky-Tieffenthal added that Santiago airport had reopened but could accommodate only a few flights.He said yesterday that contact with the Austrian embassy in capital Santiago de Chile was difficult and sporadic except by e-mail.The spokesman added that the European Union had considered sending a mission from the capital to Concepcion, which had suffered the most damage, but had dropped the idea for the time being.The reason, he said, was that the highway connecting the two cities was in very bad condition and no one wanted to get in the way of rescue efforts.