Chile quake survivors still struggle

Published on 5 July 2010

Author(s): Reuters/AlertNet

Type:  news & video 2.04 Min

Chileans had been educated on what to do in an earthquake, and evacuated buildings at the first sign of a big tremor

AlertNet/Reuters: 21-04-2010.  A massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck near the coast of south-central Chile early on Feb. 27, 2010, triggering huge tsunamis. It shook buildings and caused blackouts in parts of the capital Santiago, 335 km (210 miles) away. Giant waves set off by the quake crashed into coastal villages near the epicentre, killing scores of people and demolishing houses. Television images showed houses washed away by swirling waters, cars tossed into shattered buildings and boats lifted into the streets in coastal towns including Pelluhue and Constitucion.

Several hundred people died and 370,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. The quake also mangled highways, downed bridges and dealt a heavy blow to infrastructure. Looting and violence broke out in Concepcion, Chile's second-largest city, soon after the quake, and it took thousands of troops and police several days to restore order in the streets. Strong aftershocks were felt for several weeks after the initial tremor.

The quake exposed serious flaws in the country's emergency response systems and a lack of coordination between various government agencies. The government had told Chileans immediately after the quake there was no danger of a tsunami, an error it said was based on incorrect data from navy experts. And rescue efforts in the first few days were slow, partly because of damaged infrastructure, but also because officials misjudged the extent of the damage, initially declining offers for international aid. The head of Chile's emergency management agency resigned amid criticism the agency was slow to respond.

The government plans to spend more than $2.5 billion over the next two years to rebuild 300,000 houses, as well as hospitals, schools and roads. However it says repairing all the damage will take three to four years. Chile's death toll was a fraction of that caused by the January 2010 quake in Haiti, which killed more than 200,000 people, despite the Chilean tremor being 500 times stronger. Experts give several reasons for this difference. Chileans had been educated on what to do in an earthquake, and evacuated buildings at the first sign of a big tremor.

Chile's strict building codes, enforced after a quake killed 5,000 people in 1960, also helped. However, questions were raised about whether building codes had been strictly adopted. And lastly, Chile's quake was much deeper than Haiti's and occurred offshore. The Haitian quake's epicentre was right on the edge of the capital Port-au-Prince, which was devastated as a result.

Reuters recently published a video on theearthquake in Chili. To watch the video please click on the picture below...

Chili video copy.jpg

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