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Quake Threatens Important Chile Fish, Wine Sectors

ALAN CLENDENNING

TALCAHUANO, Chile (AP) ¿ The tsunami that hit this coastal city sent 50-ton fishing boats crashing onto land and demolished its port ¿ wiping out the $40 million in business that courses through the local economy from the annual anchovy and sardine catch.

Less than 100 miles (160 kilometers) away, Chile's economy took another beating as the mammoth quake downed bridges and opened up vast crevices on the nation's only north-south highway, paralyzing the export lifeline for the nation's renowned farm-raised salmon industry.

And Chile's telecommunications system was still so badly out of whack Wednesday ¿ four days after the quake ¿ that local and foreign investors who own vineyards that carpet the hardest-hit areas couldn't reach winery employees by phone or Internet to discuss the upcoming harvest.

"You have to get grapes from the vineyards to the winery, and I don't know the condition of the roads around the winery," said Mark Osmun, spokesman for California's Jackson Family Wines, owner of the Vina Calina winery in the devastated Talca region about 65 miles (105 kilometers) from the quake's epicenter.

Chile's horrendously destructive 8.8-magnitude quake doesn't have a price tag on it yet, though President Michelle Bachelet mentioned a $30 billion estimate when she met Tuesday with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who delivered 25 satellite phones as a down payment on disaster assistance.

But the quake has already forced tens of thousands into unemployment with no end in sight in the nation's south-southwest area and will almost certainly mean higher salmon prices at U.S. supermarkets. It also translates into higher wine production costs for an industry already hurt by the declining value of the U.S. dollar.

Chile's copper industry, which supplies a third of the world's copper, wasn't badly affected because most operations lie north of Santiago. Mining company Anglo American PLC said Wednesday that one of its plants near the epicenter had considerable damage, "preventing the resumption of operations until further notice."

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