• Maria Fustic

Ground Breaking: Chilean Earthquake

The 8.3 magnitude earthquake that hit Chile on September 17th 2015, was both literally and figuratively ground breaking (CNN News, "Chile earthquake: 8.3-magnitude quake strikes off coast”). The similar 8.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Chile on April 1st 2014 was widely broadcasted for the same reasons, and although this recent earthquake has received less coverage, it is just as impressive. (CBC News, "Chile earthquake: How loss of life, damage was minimized").

Natural disasters have enormous effects on the development of a country. When a country is more prone to natural disasters, improving its human development index is much harder because these disasters can have detrimental effects on a nations infrastructure, the productivity of the economy, standard of living, and more. The effects of natural disasters therefore can have a huge effect on development, but this also works vice versa: development can have a huge effect on the effects of natural disasters and in ground breaking ways.

Countries that are already developed and are prone to certain natural disasters for example have specific infrastructure, emergency procedures, and prevention measures that they take (ie. Vancouver, Canada). However, when we look at lesser-developed countries, these measures have not usually been taken because they do not have the capability to do so for political, financial, economic, and other reasons.

However, Chile, which is considered a “developing” country by the United Nations and the wider public, has been very successful in taking these measures. In the 2014 earthquake, people were positively surprised at the seemingly minimal damage and loss of life when considering the intensity of the natural disaster, with only 5 deaths (CBC News, "Chile earthquake: How loss of life, damage was minimized"). With the most recent earthquake on September 17th, we have been relieved by the relatively small damage once again with only 8 deaths confirmed (The Guardian, "1 million evacuated as Chile hit by magnitude 8.3 earthquake"). When compared to the Haiti earthquake, which was of a much lower magnitude of 7.0 and had an estimated death toll of 220 000, this is truly phenomenal (CBC News, "Chile earthquake: How loss of life, damage was minimized").

Realizing Chile’s vulnerability to seismic activity—especially after an 8.8 earthquake in 1960 that caused 500 deaths, destroyed 220 000 homes, and cost $30 billion in damages—the Chilean government created a nation-wide strategy to improve the capability of buildings to tolerate earthquakes, which, according to a 2011 report by the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, “continue[s] to play a large part in protecting people” (CBC News, "Chile earthquake: How loss of life, damage was minimized"). Along with this, the government has improved communication to the public by installing tsunami sirens and a geo-location based system that is used to transmit survival information to citizens through a variety of ways, including text messages, calls, and roadside billboards along with the conventional television broadcasts (CBC News, "Chile earthquake: How loss of life, damage was minimized").

Literally ground breaking seismic activity can waver a country’s path to development, but if prevention measures were to be implemented by the government (either their own, an outside government, or even a company, a donor, etc), not only can development be achieved, but several lives can also be saved. This recent earthquake was still a tragedy, with many injured, destroyed infrastructure, people who lost loved ones, and so on, but it could have been much worse if it weren’t for the measures the Chilean government has taken. Chile has taken this ground breaking action on ground breaking, and I hope that more countries will have the opportunity, and take the opportunity, to follow in its footsteps, even if the path may seem difficult and shaky.


"Chile Earthquake: How Loss of Life, Damage Was Minimized." CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 02 Apr. 2014. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.

Safi, Michael, and Nadia Khomami. "Chile Earthquake: One Million People Evacuated after 8.3 Magnitude Quake." Theguardian.com. The Guardian, 17 Sept. 2015. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.

Shoichet, Catherine E., and Rafael Romo. "Chile Earthquake: 8.3-magnitude Quake Strikes off Coast - CNN.com." CNN. Cable News Network, 17 Sept. 2015. Web. 30 Sept. 2015.

Photo taken from:

Reuters. Chile Earthquake in Pictures: 8.3 Magnitude Quake Triggers Tsunami Warning. Digital image. The Telegraph. The Telegraph, n.d. Web.

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