Chile: Picking Up the Pieces

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Imagine a force so powerful that it actually alters time. Sadly, the citizens of Chile do not have to imagine, they lived it. On February 27, 2010, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) reported that an 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck the country of Chile—the seventh strongest earthquake ever recorded in history. The strength of the quake was so intense that seismologists from NASA say it shifted the Earth’s axis eight centimeters and shortened the day by 1.26 microseconds. Cities close to the epicenter of the quake have even shifted as much as 10 feet from their original resting place.

Once the earthquake struck, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet declared Chile a “state of catastrophe”. In the hardest hit city Concepcion, apartment buildings toppled backwards, trapping people inside. Roads were blocked. Fires broke out. And aftershocks—some measuring as high as 6.6 continue to affect the region.

The death toll to date is estimated between 700 and 800 people with thousands more still missing. Rescue teams have been unable to reach the most damaged areas. Hospitals suffered significant damage. Doctors were only able to treat the most gravely injured. Road conditions made it difficult to get aid to those in desperate need of help. According to Red Cross estimates, two million more Chileans were displaced and some 500,000 homes destroyed by the earthquake.

In the midst of all this, Chile’s new president, Sebastian Pineraras was sworn into office on March 11, 2010, just 12 days after the earthquake. According to the Associated Press, the President intends to ask for one-time government cash handouts to be given to the 4.2 million victims of the quake. Additionally, Chile’s Treasury minister estimates initial damages to be at least $30 billion.

Despite the force of the earthquake and the resulting devastation to their country, Chileans remain resilient and Pinera encourages them to remain optimistic as they pick up the pieces. In his inaugural speech to Chile, President Pinera sent this message to his country, “Lets dry our tears and put our hands to work.”

 

Read more about surviving recent natural disasters in articles about the effects of Haiti's earthquake, the resulting Haitian health crisis, and the tsunami warning in Japan.

 

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