Chile anniversary rallies turn violent as churches burned, police fire tear gas

Chile anniversary rallies turn violent as churches burned, police fire tear gas
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Chile anniversary rallies turn violent as churches burned, police fire tear gas
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Demonstrators run as police use water cannons to disperse them from the streets of Santiago, Chile, on Oct. 18, 2020. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
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Updated 19 October 2020

Chile anniversary rallies turn violent as churches burned, police fire tear gas

Chile anniversary rallies turn violent as churches burned, police fire tear gas
  • The demonstrations were held to mark last year's mass protests that left over 30 dead and thousands injured 

SANTIAGO, Chile: Tens of thousands of Chileans gathered in the central square of Santiago to mark the one-year anniversary of mass protests that left over 30 dead and thousands injured, with peaceful rallies on Sunday devolving by nightfall into riots and looting.
People gathered early in the day in demonstrations downtown and in cities throughout Chile that gained size and fervor through the evening. Many touted signs and rainbow colored homemade banners calling for a “yes” vote next Sunday in a referendum over whether to scrap the country’s dictatorship-era Constitution, a key demand of the 2019 protests.
The demonstrations, while largely peaceful early on, were marred by increasing incidents of violence, looting of supermarkets and clashes with police across the capital later in the day. Fire truck sirens, burning barricades on roadways and fireworks on downtown streets added to a sense of chaos in some neighborhoods.
Interior Minister Victor Perez spoke late in the evening, praising the early, peaceful rallies while blasting the late-night mayhem. He called on Chileans to settle their differences by voting in the upcoming Oct. 25 constitutional referendum.
“Those who carry out these acts of violence do not want Chileans to solve our problems through democratic means,” Perez told reporters, vowing to punish those who crossed the line Sunday.
Early in the day, an angry mob jeered and threatened a Communist Party mayor. Later, masked individuals firebombed a police headquarters and church. Vandals attacked another Santiago church in the early evening, setting its spire aflame and choking side streets with smoke.
More than 15 metro stations were temporarily closed amid the unrest. Police fired tear gas and water cannons in skirmishes with sometimes violent, hooded and masked people.
Last year’s protests, which began Oct. 18, raged until mid-December as Chileans gathered nationwide to call for reforms to the pension, health care and education systems. Rioting and looting resulted in billions of dollars in damage and losses to the country’s businesses and infrastructure. The unrest saw the military take to the streets for the first time since the rule of dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Police estimated that Sunday’s rally in Santiago attracted around 25,000 people by 6 p.m., far smaller than the largest protests of 2019.
In the past few days, small-scale demonstrations and isolated incidents of violence have nonetheless resurfaced in Chile, as the capital’s 6 million citizens emerge from months of confinement following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most demonstrators on Sunday wore masks, but many could be seen in tight groups, raising concerns about a potential health risk.


Quake death toll at 73 as Indonesia struggles with string of disasters

Quake death toll at 73 as Indonesia struggles with string of disasters
Updated 17 January 2021

Quake death toll at 73 as Indonesia struggles with string of disasters

Quake death toll at 73 as Indonesia struggles with string of disasters
  • More than 820 people were injured and over 27,800 left their homes after the 6.2 magnitude quake
  • On Jan. 9, a Sriwijaya Air jet crashed into the Java Sea with 62 onboard

JAKARTA: At least 73 people have been killed after an earthquake struck Indonesia’s West Sulawesi province on Friday, the disaster mitigation agency (BNPB) said on Sunday, the latest in a string of disasters to hit the Southeast Asian country.
More than 820 people were injured and over 27,800 left their homes after the 6.2 magnitude quake, BNPB spokesman Raditya Jati said. Some sought refuge in the mountains, while others went to cramped evacuation centers, witnesses said.
Police and military officers have been deployed to crack down on looting in several parts of the region, Jati added.
An emergency response status, intended to help rescue efforts, has also been put in place for two weeks, he said.
Dwikorita Karnawati, the head of Indonesia’s meteorological, climatology and geophysical agency (BMKG), has said that another quake in the region could potentially trigger a tsunami.
Straddling the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, Indonesia is regularly hit by earthquakes. In 2018, a devastating 6.2-magnitude quake and subsequent tsunami struck the city of Palu, in Sulawesi, killing thousands.
Just two weeks into the new year, the world’s fourth-most populous country is battling several disasters.
Floods in North Sulawesi and South Kalimantan province each have killed at least five this month, while landslides in West Java province have killed at least 29, authorities said.
On Jan. 9, a Sriwijaya Air jet crashed into the Java Sea with 62 onboard.
East Java’s Semeru mountain erupted late on Saturday, but there have been no reports of casualties or evacuations.
Dwikorita said extreme weather and other “multi-dangers” of hydrometeorology are forecast in the coming weeks.