Violence continues despite government retreat on fare hike. Officials in Santiago said three people died in fires at two looted supermarkets early Sunday. Five more people later were found dead in the basement of a burned warehouse, authorities said.

Others react as a demonstrator is run over by a riot police vehicle during a protest against Chile's state economic model in Santiago. October 20, 2019.
Others react as a demonstrator is run over by a riot police vehicle during a protest against Chile's state economic model in Santiago. October 20, 2019. (Reuters)

At least five people died Sunday when a garment factory was torched by looters near Chile's capital Santiago, bringing the death toll in a wave of unrest to seven as authorities expanded a state of emergency.

Police and the military fired tear gas and used water cannon against protesters in the city as clashes over price hikes and social inequality raged through a third day.

"Unfortunately, five bodies have been found inside the factory" in Renca, Santiago Fire Brigade Commander Diego Velasquez told local media.

Two people died when looters torched a supermarket in Santiago in the early hours of Saturday.

The Chilean military declared another night-time curfew in the capital as the government struggled to contain violent protests, looting and arson in the streets even after the president cancelled a subway fare hike.

After an emergency meeting late Sunday, President Sebastian Pinera defended his decision to call a state of emergency and deploy troops onto the streets for the first time since Augusto Pinochet's military dictatorship between 1974-1990.

"Democracy not only has the right, it has the obligation to defend itself using all the instruments that democracy itself provides, and the rule of law to combat those who want to destroy it," Pinera said.

Pinera, facing the worst crisis of his second term as head of the South American country, announced Saturday night he was cancelling a subway fare hike imposed two weeks ago.

It had led to major protests that included rioting that caused millions of dollars in damage to burned buses and vandalised subway stops, office buildings and stores.

Officials in the Santiago region said three people died in a fire at a looted supermarket early Sunday, one of 60 Walmart-owned outlets that have been vandalised, and the company said many stores did not open during the day.

At least two airlines cancelled or rescheduled flights into the capital, affecting more than 1,400 passengers Sunday and Monday.

Troops patrolled the streets and a state of emergency and curfew remained in effect for six Chilean cities, but renewed protests continued after daybreak. Security forces used tear gas and jets of water to try disperse crowds.

Interior Minister Andres Chadwick reported that 62 police and 11 civilians were injured in the latest disturbances and prosecutors said nearly 1,500 people had been arrested.

With transportation frozen, Cynthia Cordero said she had walked 20 blocks to reach a pharmacy to buy diapers, only to find it had been burned.

"They don't have the right to do this," she said, adding it was right to protest "against the abuses, the increases in fares, against bad education and an undignified pension, but not to destroy."

Long lines formed at gas stations as people tried to fill up for a coming workweek with a public transport system depleted by the destructive protests.

Subway system chief Louis De Grange said workers would try to have at least one line running Monday, but he said it could take weeks or months to have the four others back in service.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies