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Feb. 27 2010 - 9:32 am | 1,743 views | 1 recommendation | 4 comments

Earthquake in Chile summary– videos, first thoughts

Epicenter of the quake was off the shore of central Chile

Epicenter of the quake was off the shore of central Chile

It caused ceiling fans to crash to the floor, cracked church spires and caused highway overpasses to collapse. It triggered a cross-Pacific tsunami. The earthquake struck across south and central Chile in the pre-dawn hours.

Chileans are retweeting the local emergency phone numbers: 568-1290/1295.

Yglesias has an initial thought on why this earthquake, many magnitudes more powerful than the Haiti quake, apparently caused much less damage and deaths, around 80 in first counts:

This one is much more powerful than the Haitian earthquake—1000 times more powerful, I’m hearing—but fortunately looks like it will be much less devastating thanks to Chile’s vastly superior infrastructure, government capacity, and general level of wealth.

Yglesias here touches on an interesting point: Haiti is the hemisphere’s worst-off country, with the weakest state. Chile is the hemisphere’s up-and-comer, a developing nation that has in the last 20 years earned a reputation for having Latin America’s best-organized and efficient government.

As Philip Bobbit argues in his book Terror and Consent a natural disaster is tantamount to a terrorist attack in that it challenges the legitimacy of the state. Haiti’s quake showed up the weakness of the government (we won’t get into whose fault that is, but it’s a long list starting with extortionist reparations demanded by France after Haiti’s independence).

It will be interesting to see how the Chilean state responds to this challenge and meets this test of its capacity.

The damage is still being tallied, but here are a few videos that give an idea of what happened, and there’s also access to a live-stream from TV de Chile.

UPDATE: Chilean TV now reporting over 100 deaths.

UPDATE 2: And the Folha de São Paulo newspaper in Brazil is quoting Chilean President Michelle Bachelet saying that the Chilean government, fearing large waves, is planning to evacuate low-lying areas of Easter Island.

UPDATE 3: Inca Kola News has updates on how mining, Chile’s big industry, has been affected:

Anglo has shut down operations at two of its mines in the region, apparently due to lack of power supply than any major damage. Codelco is “checking for damage” at its local area mines, including the big El Teniente. The big big mines in the North of Chile have not been affected (La Escondida, Atacama region mines etc.).

UPDATE 4: Argentina’s Clarín newspaper reporting 122 deaths.

UPDATE 5: Latin American wires and newspapers: Large wave engulfs Robinson Crusoe island in the Juan Fernández archipelago, west of Chile in the Pacific.


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  1. collapse expand

    I really worry about that Yglesias character sometimes. Just spouts his mouth off about any old thing and never seems to care about facts.

    1) Chile quake is not in a heavily populated zone. There’s plenty of infrastructure (eg photos of mangled roads) but luckily the big population areas got the shakes, not the collapses.

    2) Building standards in Chile are much higher, not only because of supposed wealth differences but also precisely because it’s in an earthquake zone. Same applies to Peru, western Argentina etc. Those areas are poorer than “up and coming” Chile and care just as much about building standards.

    3) Know your scales: the Chile quake is approx fifty times stronger than the Haitian quake on a pure power basis, nowhere near a thousand. It’s a log scale. But the type of quake is also fundamental and the “shape” of the telluric movement on the surface determines damage (as well as relative depth).

    4) Know your effects: The Haitian quake had a strong sideways movement to it that caused a lot of the buildings to pancake, like tugging a napkin from under a house of cards. Although we don’t know much about the Chilean quake’s telluric characteristics yet, the typical Andean quake is a vertical, upwards thrust move (hey…look at them there mountains and have a guess why they got so tall).

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