Earthquake in Chile

We wish to extend our thanks for all of the messages of solidarity that have been received since early Saturday morning.  For the most part, we are all well with no fatalities in the immediate circle of the HIC-GS team, although the Corporación SUR office in Talca was demolished, fortunately with no one inside.  It is still difficult to form a preliminary diagnosis of the state of the country.  There has been a lot of information in the media about the earthquake that struck Chile in the early morning of February 27, 2010, and as such, here we share some alternative views:

The majority of fatalities may be grouped into 3 main causes:

·         The collapse of historical buildings built of adobe (bricks of clay and straw), with tile roofs that could not withstand an earthquake of such force.

·         The real estate market: residential buildings promoted by the private sector, built by the private sector (whose work is supervised by the private sector), and funded by the state to protect the private sector (as in the case of Pablo, our co-worker here at the HIC General Secretariat, who had to evacuate his newly constructed apartment where he lives – among a total of 350 apartments, newly inhabited within the last 6 months), suffered severe and irreversible structural damage and have been declared uninhabitable. We are currently looking into filing a lawsuit.

·         The lack of coordination in the assessment of tidal waves and tsunamis.  Detection systems in the United States evaluated the risk of a tsunami immediately after the earthquake struck.  The Chilean navy and the government did not take this threat into account, except in a few small coves where local police informed inhabitants to move to higher ground.  It seems therefore, that a tsunami was of concern for Hawaii while the tidal waves were mere “unwanted secondary side effects”, which killed and led to the disappearance of many Chileans from the coast between Pichilemu and Concepción.

Other observations:

·         Modernity: Cell phones, which have been in use for over 15 years, have yet to live up to the occasion. Santiago’s international airport is closed, not so much because of structural damage, but more so because ceilings and decorations have fallen down; typical of the Chilean double-standard.

·         Emergency responses were made in one way or another by the outgoing government of Michelle Bachelet, her successor who is even farther to the right, the police, volunteer firefighters, the army, the Red Cross and Un Techo para Chile.  We will not get involved in these huge tasks!

·         We are developing proposals for reconstruction with communities, especially in the Maule region.

·         The images of looting in Concepción represent a new phenomenon in the Chilean idiosyncrasy.  We wonder to what extent “neo-catastrophic” movies and television by-products are some of the root causes of this behaviour. It is also clear that the survival conditions are very harsh in Concepción.