News / Americas

Chile Assesses Damage After Massive Quake, Tsunami

A rescue worker inspects a car caught under a landslide after an earthquake and tsunami hit the northern port of Iquique, Chile, April 2, 2014.
A rescue worker inspects a car caught under a landslide after an earthquake and tsunami hit the northern port of Iquique, Chile, April 2, 2014.
Reuters
Chilean authorities on Wednesday were assessing the damage from a massive earthquake that struck off the northern coast, causing a small tsunami, but the impact looked mostly limited.
 
Over 900,000 people who evacuated the country's low-lying coastal areas returned home on Wednesday morning after authorities called off a tsunami alarm.
 
The 8.2 magnitude quake that shook northern Chile on Tuesday killed six people and triggered a tsunami that pounded the shore with 2-meter (7-foot) waves.

Authorities evaluated the damage on Wednesday as the ocean waves receded and daylight showed the full extent of the damage.
 
Mines in Chile, the world's No. 1 copper producer, mostly said they were functioning normally.
 
The arid, mineral-rich north is sparsely populated, with most of the population concentrated in the port towns of Iquique and Arica, near the Peruvian border.
 
In Peru, the earthquake led to temporary power outages and evacuations in some southern towns, but did not cause serious damage or injuries.
 
  • An elderly person is evacuated from a shelter after a tsunami alarm at Antofagasta city, north of Santiago on the southern Pacific coast, April 1, 2014.
  • Residents take their belongings to higher ground after a tsunami alarm at Talcahuano city, south of Santiago, April 1, 2014.
  • A fire is seen at Iquique city from the top floor of a building after a tsunami alarm at Iquique city, north of Santiago, April 1, 2014.
  • People embrace on the upper floor of an apartment building located a few blocks from the coast where they gathered to avoid a possible tsunami after an earthquake in Iquique, Chile, April 1, 2014.
  • Locals gather on the street following a tsunami alert after an earthquake hit off Chile's Pacific coast, April 1, 2014.
  • People are evacuated from their shelter after a tsunami alarm at Antofagasta city, north of Santiago, April 1, 2014.
  • Fishermen inspect boats sunk after a small tsunami hit the northern port of Iquique, Chile, April 2, 2014.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet visited Iquique on Wednesday and praised people's orderly response to the emergency.
 
“We are here to recognize the calm behavior of the people of Iquique who showed great civic responsibility, as did those of Arica. I think you have given us all a tremendous example,” she said.
 
The government would put great effort into restoring services, she added.
 
Finance Minister Alberto Arenas said the government would place “no limit on the use of resources to address this emergency.”
 
Bachelet, who was sworn in as president less than a month ago, is likely conscious of the stinging criticism she faced  near the tail-end of her first term in office in 2010, when the government was seen to have responded inadequately to a much bigger 8.8 quake and tsunami that killed over 500 people.
 
Nearly eight times more energy was released in the quake that struck Chile some four years ago, experts say.
 
Damage limited
 
It was too early to estimate financial losses, but they were expected to be much lower than the $30 billion from the 2010 quake, which affected the more densely populated central region, said earthquake expert Alexander Allmann at reinsurer Munich Re.
 
“The quake has caused severe damage to some buildings in the affected region, but in general the building standards in Chile are comparatively high, allowing buildings and infrastructure to withstand such quakes reasonably well,” said Allmann.
 
“The small tsunami triggered by the quake is not expected to have caused significant
damage.”
 
Fishermen inspect the damage caused by an earthquake and tsunami that hit the northern port of Iquique, Chile, April 2, 2014.Fishermen inspect the damage caused by an earthquake and tsunami that hit the northern port of Iquique, Chile, April 2, 2014.
x
Fishermen inspect the damage caused by an earthquake and tsunami that hit the northern port of Iquique, Chile, April 2, 2014.
Fishermen inspect the damage caused by an earthquake and tsunami that hit the northern port of Iquique, Chile, April 2, 2014.
Small fishing vessels in the ports looked to be among the worst affected.
 
“We struggled just to be able to get a bigger boat...and now look at it,” a woman from Iquique's fishing community, in tears, said in a video posted on Reuters.com.
 
Several smaller aftershocks, some as big as 5.2 magnitude, continued into Wednesday.
 
Although the tsunami alert was called off, the navy warned that high waves and strong currents could continue, and some ports in the area remained closed on Wednesday afternoon.
 
Landslides had also blocked eight roads and Iquique's hospital suffered some damage but otherwise most infrastructure was in good shape, emergency office Onemi said.
 
Nearly 300 prisoners took advantage of the emergency on Tuesday night to escape from a female penitentiary in Iquique. Some 131 had since voluntarily returned, Onemi said.
 
Thousands of miles away in Hawaii, residents were warned of possible sea level changes and strong currents that could pose a danger to swimmers and boaters.
 
The big one
 
Chileans live in one of the most earthquake-prone areas of the world. In 1960, southern Chile was hit by a 9.5 quake, the largest in modern history.
 
Residents in the area of the latest quake have been expecting “the big one” for many years. The Nazca and South American tectonic plates rub up against each other just off the coast of Iquique, where a “seismic gap” has been building up.
 
An unusually large number of tremors in the area in recent weeks had led authorities to reinforce emergency procedures, while residents bought rations, and prepared for an eventual evacuation.
 
However, Tuesday's quake was likely not 'the big one' they had anticipated, said Paul Earle, a seismologist at the U.S. Geological Survey National Earthquake Information Center.
 
“This earthquake was not large enough to release the stress on the whole area where they believe the seismic gap is,” he said.
 
“It's going to take some time to evaluate the effect of this earthquake on that region. But people should stay prepared."

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs

More Americas News

Scores Killed in Western Mexico Gunfight

Officials say almost every person killed in Michoacan state shootout was a suspected gang member
More

Latest US-Cuban Talks Ends in Washington

Both sides cite progress on restoring diplomatic ties, but no final agreement reached
More

Tutu Lends Support to Age Campaign

Help Age International has launched Action 2015 campaign
More

Colombia Kills 18 FARC Rebels

The bombing raid took place in the Cauca region of western Colombia
More

Lawmakers Question Normalization Effort With Cuba

On eve of next round of US-Cuba talks, Senator Bob Menendez calls engagement 'one-sided'
More

Chinese Premier Visits South America

Brazil is the first stop on Chinese premier Li’s tour of Latin America
More