SANTIAGO, Chile _ Eleven minutes after a monster earthquake struck off the coast of Chile last Saturday, an official tsunami warning was sent to the Chilean government.
The country's leaders didn't share the news, however. What's more, police driving through neighborhoods calmed frayed nerves by saying that no tsunamis were on the way.
When walls of water washed over Chile's central coast, hundreds died, and the lack of warning has created a firestorm of criticism, self-blame and finger-pointing.
"People are dead as a result of the government's mistakes," said Miguel Rivera, a city councilman in the coastal town of Hualpen, just north of Concepcion. "Sending out the word in time would have saved a lot of lives."
Chilean Navy Admiral Edmundo Gonzalez, in an interview with TV Chile, took some of the blame.
Asked if the Navy was responsible for hundreds of deaths, he said: "We share that responsibility." The Navy was "not very clear" in describing the tsunami threat to Chilean President Michelle Bachelet, he said.
Bachelet called Gonzalez's statement "very manly," and said now is not the time for finger-pointing.
"Everybody's a general after the war," she said.
Still, Gonzalez insisted that he'd given sufficient information to the Ministry of the Interior's National Emergency Office for it to take action to warn Chileans of the tsunami threat.
All agreed that Chile's tsunami warning system was not up to the task.
On Thursday, President-elect Sebastian Pinera, who takes office on March 11, said that his incoming administration would undertake "a profound modernization of the system."
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