Although Saturday’s massive earthquake in Chile was a terrible tragedy – the death toll currently stands at over 700 – things could have been much worse. Registering 8.8 on the Richter scale, the earthquake was 500 times more powerful than the one which hit Haiti on 12 January this year and yet far fewer people were killed than in the Haiti quake.
There are various reasons for this, including Chile's strict building code, which ensures that all new buildings are as earthquake-proof as possible, and the booming economy. Another factor is that Chilean schools teach children how to respond in an emergency, whereas Haitian schools do not.
The quake's epicentre was near the central city of Concepción and the vast majority of the destruction - caused by the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami - is in central and southern Chile.
Many people are still missing and around two million people have been affected by the quake. Some 1.5 million homes have either been partially or totally destroyed. The death toll will almost certainly continue to rise.
The Chilean government has acknowledged that the Navy made a huge error when it initially announced that there was no danger of a tsunami. The country's southern coast was hit by a huge tidal wave.
The Chilean authorities say they were only trying to avoid even greater panic by not issuing a tsunami warning, but Victor Sardiñas, a geophysicist with the Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre in Hawaii, says this is the wrong approach:
"If there are doubts, if we don't have all the facts and if there is the slightest chance, then we issue a tsunami warning. The chance that an undersea earthquake will occur is reason enough to evacuate coastal areas."
In the wake of the tragedy came the looting of shops in Concepción, Chile’s third largest city and not far from the epicentre of the quake.
For the first time since the end of the military dictatorship, the Chilean authorities felt obliged to declare a state of emergency in order to avert further chaos.
This does not mean there is no sympathy for ordinary citizens who have been driven to desperation by a lack of basic necessities.
RNW’s correspondent in Santiago, Eduardo Fernandez, asked Ivan González, a resident of the capital about his experience of the earthquake.
"It was hell. We live on the seventh floor. It began around three-thirty at night. We had a few friends round, playing karaoke and having fun. Suddenly the place began to shake. We thought the building was going to collapse. The lights went out and it was pitch black. We tried to get out but the door was jammed. My wife screamed out the window for help. People came and broke down the door and we rushed out. It was terrible, terrible. I thought we were all going to die. We stood there with our little boy in our arms in total darkness. It seemed to go on forever. I don’t know how long it was. Perhaps ten minutes."
Geophysicist Victor Sardiñas says the energy released by this massive quake should ensure that it will be quite some time before anything on a comparable scale happens again. However, there will undoubtedly be several after-shocks before the geological situation in the region returns to normal.
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