Martin Bernetti/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images -Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, accompanied by his wife, Cecilia Morel, during his inauguration ceremony at the Congress in Valparaiso on Thursday.
The new Chilean president, Sebastián Piñera, had not even taken office on Thursday when major aftershocks rocked the central coast of this earthquake-ravaged country. But within hours of his inauguration, he appeared on television to announce that troops, relief supplies and even Mr. Piñera himself would be heading immediately to the quake zone.
In rushing to respond aggressively to the tremors, it seemed that Mr. Piñera was trying to avoid the missteps of his predecessor, Michelle Bachelet, whose response to a devastating Feb. 27 earthquake was criticized as halting and ineffective. Mr. Piñera said he would fly to the hardest-hit areas later Thursday, and promised to “deploy all of the troops that may be necessary starting this evening to guarantee calm and public order.”
In the legislative seat of Valparaíso, about 90 miles from the quakes, dignitaries who gathered for the inauguration of Mr. Piñera made nervous jokes and glanced at the shuddering ceiling of the National Congress building as the quakes hit, according to news reports.
Mr. Piñera, however, showed no sign of acknowledging the tremors, and continued to shake hands with leaders and supporters before taking the oath of office. But the building was evacuated after the inauguration.