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27 February 2010


An 8.8 Richter scale earthquake struck Chile this morning, which so far has not caused anywhere near the damage seen in 7.0 Richter scale Haitian quake .  Of the 120+ reported deaths, most of the destruction being reported was a result of the tsunami which struck the isolated Juan Fernandez Islands, rolling through the one sizable community, named for early resident, Robinson Crusoe.

Residents on Easter Island (Rapa Nui), another Chilean possession, were being evacated to inland areas.

There are reports of major damage in Santiago and Concepcíon but so far the devastation seems to have not been on the scale seen in the much less powerful Haitian quake.

The strongest earthquake ever recorded was in Chile:  the 1960 Valdivia earthquake measured 9.5 on the Richter scale, and triggered tsunamis across the Pacific, causing massive damage as far away as Hawaii, the Philippines and northern California.

The New York Times recently published an article  on earthquakes, showing the most vunerable highly populated areas.  I neglected to bookmark the article, but saved the (hard to read — sorry ’bout that) map of vulnerable communities.  While much of Latin America is highly prone to earthquakes, none of those vulnerable communities faces the likelihood of a repeat performance of the death and destruction the country has seen in the past,  having learned our lesson from the 8.1 Richter scale earthquake of 1985.

Better construction techniques and general preparedness (Mexico City has earthquake drills that are taken seriously), mean that only a few communities in the Americas are considered at extreme risk. Those communities at high risk, are mostly where urbanization has over-tzed the ability to regulate construction.  Port-au-Prince is — or was — the prime example.   San Salvador (Salvador), Guatemala City and Quito also face high risks;  Santo Domingo (Dominincan Republic), and two Bolivian cities — La Paz and Santa Cruz — are also considered prime targets for major earthquake destruction in urban areas.

The destruction in Chile will be severe, and reports are still coming in, so I expect to update my posts later.

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