[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/WORLD/americas/03/01/chile.earthquake/t1main.chile.building.afp.gi.jpg caption="On Sunday, passers-by observe the remains of a destroyed building in Concepcion, Chile's hardest-hit major city."]
Concepcion, Chile (CNN) - Chile's defense minister has blamed the Navy for not issuing a tsunami warning after an 8.8-magnitude earthquake rocked the South American country.
Such a forewarning could have allowed villagers on the coast to flee to higher ground.
Of the 708 reported dead, 541 died in Chile's Maule region, and 64 in the Bio Bio region, both on the coast.
"The truth even if it hurts [is that] a division of the Navy made a mistake," Minister Francisco Vidal said.
After the quake initially struck, President Michelle Bachelet said a tsunami was unlikely.
More than 50 countries posted tsunami warnings, and Chilean authorities later realized the large waves that slammed coastal areas were tsunami-generated.
"What we saw between the sixth and the ninth region is a tsunami," Vidal said.
The Navy has an emergency system under which captains in each port may issue warnings when sea levels begin to rise. FULL STORY