For a scary look into the near-future of Chile (and all earthquake-prone locales worldwide), have a look at www.earthquakes.usgs.gov, which is tracking and posting an hour-by-hour count on continued tremors in Chile. Fifty minutes ago a 5.5 magnitude quake was registered at Libertador General Bernardo O’Higgins; six hours ago a 5.8 magnitude quake rolled under the Bio-Bio region; two days ago it was 6.6. just offshore Bio-Bio. These strong aftershocks are keeping hundreds of thousands of people both frightened and unwilling to sleep inside.
Last November I had Andy Revkin of the Times on the phone minutes after he had stepped off a plane in New York from Istanbul, one of the most quake-threatened cities in the world. He’d gone to Turkey to research a story about the future of man and earthquakes, since the disasters seemed inevitable. It was a smart reporting move, coming just a couple months before sizable quakes rocked both Haiti and Chile. His story, published ten days ago, suggests that if an earthquake similar in strength to what hit Port au Prince hit Istanbul, a million people could die. And the Chile quake was many times more powerful than the one that struck Haiti.
Andy reports that the World Bank has loaned Turkey $800 million to help bolster schools, hospitals and public buildings against the most severe earthquake shock, but that will hardly be enough.
On a more personal note, I heard last week from old friend Daniel Gonzalez, one of Chile’s most switched-on environmentalists (he’s worked off and on over the years helping Doug Tompkins assemble his million-plus acre national park and is now working to help keep southern Patagonia free of even more hydropower dams). Daniel and his entire family are friends; they are from Concepcion, Chile’s second-largest city, situated near the epi-center of Chile’s initial quake. Currently living in Colorado, he’s headed home in a few days and his big concern is that while summer is just winding down, the cold months of winter are not far off and it’s unlikely that the one-million-plus people left homeless by the quake will have adequate places to live. He’s encouraging everyone – especially those of us with strong connections in the outdoor consumer goods world – to think about donating and sending tents, sleeping bags, fleece, boots and headlamps down south.
The newly-elected president of Chile, Sebastian Pinera, is to be inaugurated in a few days. On one hand these next months will be an incredible trial by fire for he and his new administration, testing its ability to both rebuild the country and simultaneously keep the populace safe and optimistic. On the other, the rebuilding will funnel all kinds of international aid money and loans into Chile, which – if spent prudently – will allow the government to properly fix a lot of infrastructure that needed to be fixed.
While earthquakes are currently natural disaster number one, for obvious reasons, they are just one threat that will grow as man’s booming numbers continue to crowd the natural world. Stay-tuned as the ocean continues to rise at record pace ….