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EU ready to help Chile quake victims: Aid Commissioner

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(BRUSSELS) - The European Union said it stands ready to provide immediate and coordinated aid for victims of a huge earthquake Saturday in Chile, where at least 78 people were killed.

EU Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva said she had immediately activated the commission's crisis monitoring unit and told its humanitarian aid experts "to undertake urgent needs assessments if required".

"The commission stands ready to provide immediate assistance and coordinate European efforts should that be required," the former World Bank vice president said, sending her condolences to the families affected.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said she would be "in close contact" with outgoing Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and her successor Sebastian Pinera.

"The European Union stands ready to provide help for the people of Chile," she echoed.

"This is the second time in a short period of time that the Americas are hit by a massive earthquake. We do not know yet the full impact of this disaster," said British peer Ashton.

A massive earthquake in Haiti last month killed over 200,000 people.

Ashton, who was criticised in Europe for not rushing to visit Haiti after that quake will travel there on Wednesday to visit the island which she says needs a modern-day "Marshall Plan" to rebuild it.

The 8.8-magnitude quake struck Chile at 3:34 am local time (0634 GMT) Saturday when many Chileans were still in nightclubs partying at the start of the weekend.

It was swiftly followed by a series of aftershocks ranging from 5.6 to 6.9 on the Moment Magnitude Scale.

It struck 100 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of the Chilean town of Chillan, the US Geological Survey said, and 115 kilometers (70 miles) northeast of Concepcion, a city of about a million people.

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