Sunday, February 28, 2010

Devastating Earthquake Hits Chile

Two days ago a huge earthquake, registering 8.8 on the Richter scale, hit Chile. This was one of the most powerful earthquakes ever recorded. Tsunami alerts were issued but, luckily, no reported major damage resulted from tsunamis although even Hawaii was under a tsunami watch. Tremors were felt as far as Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Sao Paolo, Brazil. Aftershocks have followed. However *** this is an update to this post that was written yesterday *** is reporting that some of the deaths in Chile in coastal communities may have been due to the government not issuing a tsunami warning to Chile residents, in time.

According to an article by Marc Lacey in The New York Times, the President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, called the damage caused by the quake an emergency unparalleled in the history of Chile and suggested that the death toll would likely spiral higher in the days ahead, with the toll now already over 700. It seems that President Bachelet is well in control of this catastrophe, which has downed power lines, destroyed bridges, toppled buildings and cars, and resulted in the closure of the Santiago airport. President Bachelet realizes the critical importance of restoring electric power since communications and medical delivery depend on it. She has arranged with supermarkets to have people take food and water, at will.

Chile has better building standards than Haiti, whose population suffered tremendously when the earthquake hit it on January 12, 2010, with more than 200,000 estimated deaths. According to The Times, the epicenter of this Chilean earthquake was farther from populated areas, than in the case of Haiti, with its capital of Port-au-Prince, in shambles, so the scale of the damage from Chile’s significantly more powerful earthquake is expected to be nowhere near that suffered in Haiti.

My college room-mate at Brown University, Maria Teresa Davila, was from Chile, so I learned a lot about this mountainous country from her. She was also an Applied Math major and loved operations research (as did I). Interestingly, Andrew Revkin, also a fellow Brown University grad, and a New York Times journalist, writes about how the Chilean Earthquake is a Warning to the U.S.. Northwest.