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Natural Disasters / South America

Chile Earthquake Sparks Minor Tsunami But Major Damage

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Earthquake DamageA massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Chile over the weekend killing hundreds and leaving thousands homeless.

Two days after the quake, the death toll has climbed to more than 700 and large parts of the country remain without water and power as citizens continue to sift through the rubble.

Even though this earthquake was 500 times more powerful than the one that shook Haiti in January, the disaster in Haiti killed more than 300 times as many people.

Several factors have contributed to the lower death toll. For starters, the epicenter of the Chilean earthquake was 70 miles away from the nearest big city, Concepcion, and deeper underground.

Meanwhile, the earthquake in Haiti struck closer to the surface, and right on the edge of Port-au-Prince.

Chile is also a much wealthier country than Haiti, so its buildings are generally better constructed. More importantly, Chile was better prepared for an earthquake.

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An even stronger quake shook Chile as recently as 1960. Since then, Chile has been designing its buildings to meet new seismic codes with earthquakes in mind. Thanks to regular earthquake drills, Chile’s citizens also knew the safest places to go when the quake hit.

On the other hand, Haiti hadn’t seen an earthquake that powerful in more than 200 years.

Chilean FlagDespite these preparations, the powerful quake still managed to topple buildings, block roads, and knock down power lines. Concepcion, Chile’s second largest city, is struggling to control the looting that often follows natural disasters.

The Red Cross is appealing for donations and has dispatched volunteers to the areas hardest hit. But unlike the situation in Haiti, Chilean officials are taking the lead on organizing recovery efforts.

To make matters trickier, strong aftershocks continue to rattle the areas most affected by the quake.

The United Nations and groups like the World Health Organization and Doctors Without Borders have teams on standby ready to provide assistance.

The Chilean government has also deployed 10,000 troops to help maintain order in the hardest-hit regions.

By Dan Bence for PeterGreenberg.com.

Related Links: CBS News, Los Angeles Times, BBC News

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