South Korea said Sunday it was ready to offer relief aid to Chile after the South American country was struck by a magnitude 8.8 earthquake a day earlier.
S. Korea pledges aid to quake-hit Chile
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak sent a message of condolence to Chile's leaders over the deaths of more than 200 people there and the 400,000 others affected by the earthquake.
In the message addressed to Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and President-elect Sebastian Pinera, Lee said, "I would like to convey my condolences to the bereaved families of those people who perished in the quake and to the Chilean people."
South Korea is fully prepared to render its support in helping Chile overcome the difficult times arising from the quake, according to the message.
Earlier in the day, the South Korean government held an emergency meeting with relevant ministries to discuss the possibility of sending a 41-member rescue team and relief supplies to Chile, Seoul's foreign ministry said.
South Korea "expresses heart-felt condolences to the Chilean government and its people in connection with damage from the earthquake," the ministry said in a statement. The massive temblor struck Chile in the pre-dawn hours of Saturday.
"The government will make a decision on the dispatch of a rescue team after consulting with the Chilean government," it said.
Meanwhile, the ministry said it confirmed the safety of two Koreans who had been unaccounted for in the Chilean city of Concepcion, the closest major city to the epicenter of the quake.
All 13 Koreans residing in Concepcion were confirmed safe.
Some 2,000 Koreans living in the Chilean capital of Santiago were reported as safe, according to the ministry.
Foreign media reported that at least 214 people were killed and about 1.5 million homes destroyed by the earthquake, which triggered a tsunami halfway around the world.
South Korea's meteorological body, however, downplayed the tsunami's impact on South Korea, forecasting that it will land on the country's coasts between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Sunday, given its speed and the undersea topography surrounding the Korean Peninsula.
"The tsunami is expected to die out and have no impact on the peninsula after passing through the Japanese Archipelago," the Korean Meteorological Administration said in a statement.
Earlier in the day, Japan issued its first "major" tsunami warning in more than 15 years following the massive earthquake in the South American country.