Image: U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visits the Alto Rio apartment building that collapsed during the earthquake, in Concepcion.
Victor Ruiz Caballero  /  Reuters
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday visits the Alto Rio apartment building in Concepcion that collapsed in last week's earthquake.
updated 3/7/2010 7:46:13 AM ET 2010-03-07T12:46:13

Workers demolished a fallen 15-story apartment building that has come to symbolize Chile's earthquake after officials said there was no more hope for finding survivors inside.

The only known remaining victim not recovered from the Alto Rio building was 21-year-old Jose Luis Leon, whose father on Saturday shouted desperately into holes in the concrete cut by rescuers looking for trapped victims.

"Jose Luis! Jose Luis!" cried Jose Leon, who had been given permission by authorities for one last search through the rubble for his son.

There was no answer.

Shortly afterward, a yellow excavator began clawing into the concrete slabs and twisted metal to completely demolish the structure whose collapse during the Feb. 27 earthquake had moved Chileans. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited the fallen apartment building in the quake-shattered city of Concepcion on Saturday.

"I am convinced that with your bravery and strong determination, you will rise back on your feet again to build a better future," Ban told Chileans.

'Family understands'
Emergency workers said continuing aftershocks have made the rubble too unstable for firefighters to continue looking for Jose Luis Leon and there is no hope of finding more survivors in the Alto Rio building.

"The family understands that there is nothing else the firefighters can do," Cmdr. Juan Carlos Subercaseaux told Chile's Radio Cooperativa, suggesting that the son's body might be recoverable for burial once the demolition is done.

At least seven significant aftershocks shook Chile on Saturday, the largest with a preliminary magnitude of 5.1, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

No additional damage or injuries were immediately reported, but aftershocks have dangerously weakened buildings all across the disaster zone, including a 22-story office tower whose now-exposed upper floors have partly pancacked and threaten to crash down onto downtown Concepcion. The city's mayor has announced at least five contracts for controlled demolitions of such buildings.

At least 500,000 homes were destroyed, but the figure could reach 1.5 million once surveys are complete, Housing Minister Patricia Poblete said.

At least the Leon family knows the body is somewhere inside the wreckage of the Alto Rio. A week after the 8.8-magnitude earthquake and tsunami, hundreds of people are still searching for relatives with the help of community radio station Bio-Bio, which broadcasts their appeals day and night. With power still out in vast stretches of the disaster area, phone lines downed and cell service spotty, communication was difficult or impossible for most survivors.

Still waiting
Some Chileans were still waiting for government aid a week after one of the strongest earthquakes on record and a roaring tsunami killed hundreds and ravaged cities and villages along the South American country's south-central coastline.

Video: Chile fears health crisis as aid trickles in Homeless and desperate, survivors voiced anger and frustration at outgoing President Michelle Bachelet's handling of the disaster, saying her administration was too slow to react after the huge quake struck early on Feb. 27.

"There has been an earthquake of disorganization on the part of the national and local governments,'' said Fernando Valenzuela, 44, who is living with his wife in a tent city in the small town of Dichato, near the epicenter.

"This is a case of bad governmental management and organization ... 99 percent of the help we have got has been from the Chilean people, and only 1 percent from the government,'' he added, as others cooked meals over open fires.

The area around Dichato was devastated by the tsunami, which washed large ships as far as 1.2 miles inland. Wooden homes splintered like matchsticks and, a week later, crushed cars still sat at odd angles amid piles of debris.

Cargo planes landed around 19 miles away with water, food and bedding. The government also dispatched two navy ships carrying a combined 120 tons of food and other supplies, but the aid had yet to reach some tent cities.

The government said Saturday basic services such as water and electricity were gradually being restored in disaster areas but acknowledged that the situation was far from normal.

While many have not seen aid trickle through, U.N. programs already have delivered many tons of relief supplies, including 79 metric tons of high-energy biscuits and other food, enough to feed 35,000 children for five days.

Chileans also are helping themselves: The military is leading a massive relief and recovery effort, with air force planes landing every half hour in Concepcion, and a 24-hour national telethon aimed at collecting $30 million Saturday.

That's just a tiny fraction of the up to $30 billion experts have estimated will be needed for the recovery effort — a huge amount for a country with an annual budget of $42 billion, even though Chile has saved more than $11 billion in copper profits from the state-owned Codelco mining company.

Police flying over the destroyed port in the neighboring city of Talcahuano located another man's body, and divers recovered a boy's body in the coastal town of Pelluhue. In Chile's remote Juan Fernandez islands, where five were killed and 11 swept away in the tsunami, a burial service was held for 14-year-old Maite Arredondo.

With the tsunami wiping away entire communities and stranding wreckage miles inland in mainland Chile, the death toll has been difficult to determine. After first reporting higher figures, the Chilean Interior Department said it would release only the number of identified dead: 452 as of the latest announcement, on Friday.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  1. Residents run to higher ground as a strong aftershock of 7.2 shook the region in Valparaiso, Chile, Thursday, March 11. (Patricio Valenzuela / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. People work to build temporary housing in the Centinela neighborhood in Constitucion on Sunday, March 7. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Survivors huddle inside a tent in Concepcion on March 7. (Victor Ruiz Caballero / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. People sift through debris in Constitucion on March 7. (Claudio Reyes / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. A volunteer sorts through food ahead of distribution in Constitution, on March 7. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. A door is propped upright, with a placard reading: "Do not pull down," on a destroyed street in Constitucion, on March 7. Some Chileans were still waiting for government aid a week after one of the strongest earthquakes on record and a roaring tsunami killed hundreds and ravaged cities and villages along the South American country's south-central coastline. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. A woman sleeps outside her house on March 7, in Talcahuano, Chile. (Natacha Pisarenko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Chile's President Michelle Bachelet, right, checks hundreds of items either returned by looters or recovered by the police at a police station in Concepcion, March 7. (Natacha Pisarenko / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Residents unload drinking water from a truck in Constitucion, March 7. (Fernando Vergara / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. People try to recover what they can on March 7 from a barber shop that was destroyed during the massive earthquake and tsunami on in Constitution, Chile. (Joe Raedle / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Soldiers stand guard on a street in Constitucion, Saturday, March 6. (Carlos Vera / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Workers at a winery in Santa Cruz in the Colchagua Valley separate intact bottles of wine from those broken in the earthquake on March 6. Some 125 million liters of Chilean wine, among the country's top five exports, were spilled during the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that killed hundreds of people and demolished cities and towns. (Marco Fredes / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Soldiers take part in clean-up operations in Talcahuano, Chile on Saturday, March 6. Some Chileans were still waiting for government aid a week after one of the strongest earthquakes on record and the tsunami it triggered killed hundreds, ravaging cities and villages along the South American country's south-central coastline. (Victor Ruiz Caballero / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. A rescue worker dives into the Maule river in Constitucion on Saturday in search of victims from last week's earthquake and tsunami. (Ivan Alvarado / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. A dead fish lies among the debris left by the tsunami in Dichato on Friday. (Cristobal Saavedra / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Earthquake survivors in Concepcion watch television on a portable set connected to an automobile battery on Friday. The city's electrical grid was damaged by last week's massive earthquake. (Victor Ruiz Caballero / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. People sleep in front of their damaged homes in Concepcion, Chile, on Friday, March 5. (Ricardo Mazalan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Residents get water from a fire hydrant in Concepcion on Friday. (Ricardo Mazalan / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. A survivor looks out from a tent where she is living with her family in Dichato on Thursday. (Pilar Olivares / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Hard-hit Juan Fernandez Island is seen on Thursday. (Felipe Gamboa / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Workers separate donated food into packages for distribution to earthquake survivors in Concepcion on Wednesday. (Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Local residents barricade themselves to prevent looting in Concepcion, Chile on Wednesday. Thousands more troops were deployed across quake-hit Chile Tuesday as residents took up arms to stop a wave of mass looting in the nation's second city, slapped with an 18-hour curfew. (Evarito Sa / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A man searches for salvageable items among the destruction left by a major earthquake and ensuing tsunami in Llolleo on Wednesday. (Eliseo Fernandez / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Residents in Constitucion, Chile, run after a strong aftershock on Wednesday led to rumors that a tsunami was coming. (Martin Bernetti / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. A disaster survivor prepares a meal in the streets of Constitucion on Wednesday. (Luis Hidalgo / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. A survivor sleeps beside a cat outside her damaged home in Constitucion on Wednesday. (Enrique Marcarian / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. A man repairs the walls of a house on Wednesday in Linares. (Daniel Garcia / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. An abandoned vehicle remains near a destroyed road in the town of Lota on Wednesday. (Aliosha Marquez / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Constitucion residents line up to get food at a distribution center on Wednesday. (Martin Bernetti / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. A woman walks near the Maule River in Constitucion on Wednesday. The tsunami that wiped out much of the town washed over beaches as well as properties along the river. (Martin Bernetti / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image: Residents run to higher ground in Chile
    Patricio Valenzuela / Reuters
    Above: Slideshow (30) Chile works to heal - Most recent images
  2. Image: A police officer aims at people that were looting goods
    Ricardo Mazalan / AP
    Slideshow (8) Chile works to heal - Day 4
  3. Image: Earthquake aftermath
    Danny Alveal / EPA
    Slideshow (19) Chile works to heal - Day 3
  4. Image: A girl stands on the floor of what was her home, destroyed by the waves generated by a major earthquake, near the epicenter in Pelluhue
    Ivan Alvarado / Reuters
    Slideshow (17) Chile works to heal - Day 2
  5. Image: Fishing boats washed up by a wave generated by an earthquake are seen in Talcahuano Port
    Reuters
    Slideshow (29) Chile works to heal - Day 1

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