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Chilean main tourist attractions escape earthquake with little or no damage

David Eisen  Mar 03, 2010

Though the U.S. State Department is urging Americans to avoid travel to Chile, the fact is that many of the country's major tourist attractionsā€”Patagonia, the Atacame desert, Easter Islandā€”escaped with little or no damage after the 8.8 magnitude earthquake Saturday.

USA TODAY reports that a spokeswoman for Turismo Chile said the airport in the capital, Santiago, hopes to reopen for commercial flights Wednesday despite structural damage to the customs and immigration area and other terminal facilities. LAN Airlines, the country's biggest carrier, will resume 15 percent of its international and domestic flights into and out of a makeshift Santiago terminal Tuesday. Airlines offering waivers for flights to Chile include American, Copa, Delta and LAN.

Flight operations will resume in two phases. Phase one, from March 2 to 5, will include domestic flights gradually resuming between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. International flights will run on a limited schedule. All arriving international flights during this period will stopover in another Chilean city prior to landing in Santiago in order for passengers to clear Chilean customs and immigration formalities.

Phase two will be from March 5 onward. Domestic and international flights will be operating 24 hours. All domestic flight arrivals and departures will be operating out of a makeshift terminal set up in tents located to the east of the airportā€™s old terminal. International flight departures will move to the domestic flights sector of the current terminal. International arriving passengers will clear Chilean customs and immigration formalities in a makeshift facility set up in tents to the west of the current terminal.

Word from Santiago, the country's capital, is that phone service and public transportation have been restored. Minimal damage at the country's cruise port Valparaiso was also reported, and Princess Cruises planned to call there as scheduled on Tuesday. (Valparaiso, the port of call for Santiago, is about 200 miles from the earthquake's epicenter.) Other cruise lines are also going ahead with planned calls, including Silversea and Oceania Cruises. Silver Spirit, which is on a multi-week cruise from Argentina to Chile, is visiting Punta Arenas, Chile, as scheduled on Tuesday before heading to the Chilean Fjords on Wednesday. The ship also will go ahead with visits to Laguna San Rafael on Thursday, Puerto Chacabuco on Friday and Puerto Montt on Saturday before the cruise ends in Valparaiso on March 8. Oceania's Insignia plans to call March 7.

Elsewhere, the popular tourist towns of PucĆ³n, Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt in the Chilean Lake District are operating normally, according to Turismo Chile. So, too, are such destinations as Torres del Paine, San Pedro de Atacama and Easter Island.

"The infrastructure is's getting in and out that everyone is working on right now," said Nathalie Pilovetzky, spokeswoman for Turismo Chile.

Chilean main tourist attractions escape earthquake with little or no damage
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