Saturday, February 27, 2010

Earthquake in Chile

An 8 something (.5? .8?) shook Central Chile.  TVN 24 from Chile tells us it was felt as an 8 in Santiago.  In other words, an order of magnitude more than the one of Haiti in January (though the length data is not clear).  Globovision shows continuous "cadena" with TVN 24 and we can see highways twisted, open ground, displaced roads, etc....  Plus the usual building damage.

And yet we have a clear sense that the government is taking action, that the situation is as much under control as it can be in such circumstances and that people in the street are shocked but not out of their wits.

The difference here is that Chile is a country on its way to development, used to earthquake, which has developed an emergency system geared towards earthquake and tsunami damage.  So even an 8.something quake hits a lot but does not devastate completely the country which is expected to be able to reopen its Concepcion airport in a couple of days......  And to restore electricity and water services in a reasonable amount of time.  I think I heard that the Santiago subway would be reopened any time soon.....  President Bachelet was filmed flying over the disaster area in helicopter, her government busy everywhere, the ambassador to Venezuela emitting what appeared to be complete reports.

In Haiti we saw Preval asking for money at Cancun, and as far as we know, the French and the US are running his country the best they can though already the Haiti government is asking for taxes on the "imported" emergency supplies.....

I do not mean to disparage Haiti which has had a rough history though the case could be made that it started better off at its independence than Chile did.  And Chile did have its share of foreign intervention of which it recovered while Haiti did not.  No, my point is that Venezuela today is way closer to Haiti than it is to Chile.

If an 8 intensity earthquake were to hit Caracas tomorrow our death toll would be in the Haiti range.  Many of them dying of their wounds, epidemic and the like.  Today in Caracas electricity and water supply are no better than Chile post quake.  We have as many holes in the streets as we can see from Chile post quake.  Our public hospitals would be as quickly overtaxed as those of Haiti, leaving the private sector health remains to take care of things as the state structure is woefully inefficient.  And, every week end, crime alone takes int he country almost as many victims that Chile in a single earthquake.

I am not saying that we would be as bad as Haiti, but in some sectors we would as the shanty towns would be going downhill just as those of Port au Prince did.  The general populace of Venezuela is as blissfully ignorant of the earthquake potential of Caracas, just as the one of Haiti who did not remember that Port au Prince and Cap Haitien have already been leveled in historical times.  Caracas had several hundred people killed in the 1967 quake and yet all governments since have done little in preventive measures, including the current glorious bolibanana revolutionary sham which for 11 years has presided over the poor without any significant offering for quake damage control as far as I can tell.  In fact a quake today would be worse than 11 years ago because crime is under such expansion that too many would be more interested in looting than rescuing folks under the crumbled homes.  Looting in Haiti did happen, but after a while, when people got hungry.  In Caracas I bet you that looting would start within the hour...


  1. here in lima peru today we are all glued too the news watching it.

    an 8.8 here in lima would be unbeleivably catastrophic.

  2. I have been watching live feeds and seeing the pictures. This is horrendous. Looks like the small coastal city near the epicenter was hit by a nuke.

    I don't speak spanish but the images speak for themselves.

    Prayers for Chile!

  3. Jhenaya844:49 AM

    I've been to Venezuela 3 times and judging from what I've seen and witnessed I completely agree that Caracas, VE is completely unprepared for any catastrophic event. The only thing Chavez "prepared" them for are their occasionally overflowing rivers.

  4. Boludo Tejano6:09 AM

    The Boston Globe has a good collection of photos. That was one powerful earthquake.

  5. sheik yer bouti6:30 AM

    must be Bush's fault....or global warming

  6. Sheik, the U.S. naval nuke sonic weapon test on Haiti didn't quite go as planned, so they had to test it on another non-enemy country before they could deploy it against Iran.

    Seriously, this is tragic, but I remain extremely impressed that, with an earthquake over 10 times as strong as the Haitian quake (albeit further offshore) could do relatively so much less damage. Still devastating, though.

    No, I don't want to imagine what that kind of quake would do to Venezuela, especially Caracas. Though all in all, I suspect it would less of a disaster than Chavez.

  7. Anonymous3:32 PM

    I think this article does a very good job of highlighting the differences between the 2 earthquakes.,8599,1968576,00.html

    One thing I have found interesting here is the difference in the coverage between the two nations.

    I also have an interest (family) in Peru and would have to say that the materials used and construction in Ica and Canete was a huge contributor to the damage.


  9. Anonymous9:03 PM

    Is anybody really READY for an earthquake. Japan and California have had huge quakes recently with severe damage and both had a hard time recovering despite being 1st world industrialized nations.

    Armchair criticism is not welcome during disaster.

  10. anonymous

    armchair criticism? where?


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