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WILMINGTON, DE -- A record crowd exceeding 200 people attended the fifth annual Taste of Chile dinner on April 28, here.

The evening's primary topic of discussion among the members of the host Chilean & American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia was the 8.8 magnitude earthquake, which struck Chile on Feb. 27.

Andrés Montecinos, the Philadelphia-based U.S. East Coast representative of the reefer division of CSAV/SudAmericana de Vapores, told The Produce News that the earthquake caused Valparaiso’s primary pier for fruit exports to drop three feet. He said that rapid improvisations allowed the port to be partially functioning by the next day and added that the port will be functioning normally by this fall. Mr. Montecinos said that Chile has large financial reserves from its copper export business, which, combined with building codes to accommodate earthquakes, allowed the country to quickly move forward despite the quake. He said that aftershocks on the order of 5.0 on the Richter scale are almost a daily event in Chile.

Thomas Keefer, deputy executive director of the port of Wilmington in Wilmington, DE, and a board member of the Chilean & American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Philadelphia, gave the opening remarks for the dinner.

Anne Bookout, vice president and general counsel of Royal Fumigation, located in New Castle, DE, introduced the keynote speaker, Ronald Bown, chairman of the board of ASOEX, the Santiago-based Chilean Exporters Association.

Mr. Bown said that the Chilean quake was 800 times as powerful as the Jan. 12 quake that brought Haiti to a standstill. "Fortunately, there were not nearly as many deaths" in Chile, he added.