On September 16th, 2015, Chile was hit, yet again, by a strong earthquake. The 8.3 magnitude quake was centered in the northern region of Coquimbo, 285 miles north of the capital and largest city, Santiago, and caused flooding in more southern regions such as Illapel, only 177 miles from the capital. Only five years ago in 2010, Chile was struck by another large earthquake but with much more serious consequences. The 2010, 8.8 magnitude quake left 525 people dead from the initial quake and ensuing tsunami.1 Since that tragic event Chileans have learned much about how to prepare for earthquakes and their devastating after effects.
While this earthquake and tsunami caused flooding and shook cities in its vicinity for three minutes, the death toll was much lower than in 2010. While any death toll is unfortunate, only 11 people are known to have died from the quake, a stark contrast to the 525 only five years prior. Around 100,000 people in the devastated region were left without power and after a visit from President Michelle Bachelet, the region was quickly declared a state of emergency. More stringent building codes and improved emergency evacuation routes are the main reason these communities survived so well. After the 2010 quake, four government officials were blamed with involuntary manslaughter after not releasing emergency information after the earthquake, leaving people unaware of the ensuing tsunami which took many lives. Now residents know to reach higher ground when emergency notifications are sent out and have practiced emergency evacuation drills before in order to be adequately prepared. The National Seismic Center of Chile has also been working vigilantly to monitor any activity in the country and off the coast, a crucial component that has greatly improved since the 2010 disaster.2
Much of the damage done by this earthquake is actually attributed to the tsunami that followed which flooded port cities and left boats strewn in the streets. Now tsunami warnings are issued as soon as possible following earthquakes so that people in the affected areas can move out as quickly as possible. Chile’s improvement in emergency measures has greatly helped people avoid catastrophe and more strict building codes will provide a more stable future.2 While natural disasters will continue to occur in Chile, the government is making sure that advanced technology and communication will ensure that citizens remain safe as possible.
1) Bonnefoy, Pascale, and Simon Romero. "Chile Sees Extensive Damage After Earthquake and Tsunami." The New York Times. The New York Times, 17 Sept. 2015. Web. 21 Sept. 2015.
2) Bonnefoy, Pascale, and Patrick J. Lyons. "Why Chile’s Latest Big Earthquake Has a Smaller Death Toll." The New York Times. The New York Times, 17 Sept. 2015. Web. 21 Sept. 2015.
3) "Chile Quake: State of Emergency Declared for Coquimbo - BBC News."BBC News. BBC News, 18 Sept. 2015. Web. 21 Sept. 2015.