Many years ago Punch ran a competition to produce a headline of limited impact. The winner “Small Earthquake in Chile-Not many dead” has entered the conscious memory apocryphally.
The 2010 Chilean earthquake occurred off the coast of the Maule Region of Chile on Saturday, February 27, 2010, at 03:34 local time rating a magnitude of 8.8 on the Richter scale and lasting nearly three minutes. The earthquake triggered a tsunami which devastated several coastal towns in south-central Chile and damaged the port at Talcahuano. The earthquake also caused a blackout that affected 93% of the country's population and which went on for several days in some locations. The outgoing President Michelle Bachelet declared a "state of catastrophe" and sent military troops to take control of the most affected areas. The latest death toll as of March 30, 2010 is amazingly low at 432 victims. Many of these died in the tsunami rather than in the earthquake.
Seismologists estimate that the earthquake was so powerful that it may have shortened the length of the day by 1.26 microseconds and moved the Earth's figure axis by 8 cm or 2.7 milliarcseconds. Precise GPS measurement indicated the telluric movement moved Chile’s second largest city, Concepción 3.04 metres to the west.
The earthquake took place along the boundary between the Nazca and South American tectonic plates, at a location where they converge at a rate of eighty millimetres (about three inches) a year. This earthquake was characterized by a thrust-faulting focal mechanism, caused by the subduction of the Nazca plate beneath the South American.
This was the seventh most powerful earthquake in recorded history. Chile suffered the most powerful of all in 1960 with one measured at 9.5 on the Richter scale. This one at 8.8 was about five hundred times more powerful than the recent one at 7.0 in Haiti in which over 200,000 people died. The difference is that Chile was much better prepared. Their modern buildings are generally built to withstand such shocks. Its economy is much stronger, now the richest per capita in Latin America, and its system of government stable and well organised to deal with emergency.
Nevertheless the economic and structural damage is enormous. The losses have been estimated at US$29,662,000,000, some 20% of Chile’s GDP. Of this $4,921,000,000 was insured so the net loss to the country is US$24,741,000,000. 800,000 buildings have been condemned. Of these many are places of work meaning that many workers are unable to do their jobs. Over 4,000 are schools so that there are 590,000 students with no classes. 79 hospitals have been damaged. After the initial earthquake there have been 480 aftershocks, of which 17 were measured at over 6 on the Richter scale. There were 17 alone on the day the new President Sebastian Piñera was sworn in. Piñera has been elected for a four-year term. He will need all of that to supervise the reconstruction.
My wife, who is Chilean, was there at the time. I was not able to speak with her for two days as the communications were badly affected. She was staying with her mother in our apartment in Higuerillas, a small fishing village a few kilometres to the north of Vina del Mar, and so about 350 kilometres north of the epicentre. The building was not damaged but was evacuated because of the warning of a tsunami. When this came it damaged street furniture and children’s playgrounds but further south caused massive damage. The naval base at Talcahuano, the leading naval repair centre in Latin America, was badly damaged as can be seen on this link.
Please find below a link to a Power Point presentation that is circulating in the Chilean community and among its friends to raise awareness and hopefully funds as Chile tries to deal with its challenges of rebuilding. The previous Government had followed very sensible policies regarding its copper reserves and had banked the windfall on these rather than frittering them away on silly short term programmes. This will help but will not be enough.
As well as the economic and structural damage there has been a disturbing psychological effect. Some talk of an “end of the world “syndrome. But as can be seen in these presentations the message is one of hope and there is a strong spirit of determination and optimism.
I make no apologies that the presentation is in Spanish. The pictures tell the story
In order to help with the relief operations, the Government of Chile is making an international appeal for assistance. In this respect the Embassy of Chile in the United Kingdom has set up a bank account for the sole purpose of receiving donations. The details of which are the following:
Name of the Current Account in GBP:
CHILEAN EARTHQUAKE APPEAL
Bank Name: BBVA
Account Number: 01010982
Client Number: 264077
Sort Code: 23-47-36
Bank Address: BBVA
142 Brompton Road
London, SW3 1HY
Donations can be made by cheque or bank transfer to the above account.
All cheques should be made payable to “Chilean Earthquake Appeal” and sent directly to the BBVA bank at the above address.
Copyright David C Pearson 2010 All rights reserved