Tag Archives: earthquake

Piñerisms 1: Marepoto & Tusunami

PiñipediaChile’s new president, Sebastian Piñera, not only leans to the right like George Bush, but it seems he went to the same school of public speaking. Much to the glee of news buffs, language hawks, and yes, even T-shirt makers, Piñera delighted us all with a bit of unintended levity, not once, but twice, in the aftermath of the recent earthquake. Continue reading


Chile Quake Wine People Project. Day 1 Chimbarongo

Wednesday, March 17. Day 1: Chimbarongo, Colchagua Valley

Friend and photographer Mari Correa and I set out on Wednesday, March 17 to begin our trip south to visit wineries in the earthquake zone. We are just beginning a project sponsored by Wines of Chile and this is the first of several such trips over the coming months to document what happened in the wineries and how the people—more than the companies—are coping today and where they’re heading tomorrow. Continue reading

Iniciación a los 8,8 grados

The following is an article originally commissioned by Chile’s El Mercurio newspaper for a special segment on the February 27 earthquake. They had asked me as a foreign resident and anthropologist to write on my personal reflections on my experience of the quake that had occurred less than a week prior. In the end the story got bumped by another written by a famous Mexican author who happened to be in town at the time. These things do happen; but I like the piece and offer it up to you, uncut and unedited, with my apologies for any unwitting gringuismos, Spanglish, and grammatical faux pax.

Continue reading

Chile’s Earthquake: An Architect’s Perspective

Sebastian Gray, Architect

Sebastian Gray, Architect

In the aftermath of one of the strongest earthquakes on record, the world has turned its eyes to Chile and has been amazed at how relatively little structural damage was done in comparison with lesser quakes in other parts of the world. I asked my friend Sebastian Gray, an architect and professor at the Universidad Católica de Chile, for answers to the many questions on my mind about issues of architectural safety, earthquake resistance, and seismic considerations in Chilean building codes and structural design.

First: where is the safest place in the house? Continue reading

Chile’s Earthquake-Santiago Aftermath

It’s been a long week. I posted my personal experience of last week’s earthquake immediately after it occurred, but then, as the news began to show  the depths of the tragedy that hit this country in ever greater detail, I found it harder and harder to write about it. Like everyone here, I thought of little else, but it’s not easy to wrap one’s mind around something of this 8.8 magnitude. I’m sure there are many of us in Chile who have recalled the expression “there but for the grace of God go I” this week. With knotted stomach and wrenched heart, my thoughts have gone round and round and changed so often that it has been hard to pin them down at any one time.

My words are now starting to come back, but let’s start with pictures… Continue reading

Chile’s Earthquake–the 8.8 experience

As the world is now fully aware, Chile suffered a massive 8.8-point earthquake at 3:34 AM on Saturday, February 27, 2010. Some 80% of the country felt the impact that left some sectors nearly decimated and others barely touched. Chile is no stranger to earthquakes. It holds the record for the world’s worst—9.5 points in Valdivia in May 1960. Chile—and Chileans—are prepared to meet nature’s wrath square on, and thanks to appropriate technology and a culture of preparedness (turn off the gas, turn on the water, open the door, stand in the doorway, get outside, get to high ground), the country has been able to withstand a fury that would have brought most other countries to their figurative knees.

Earthquake: A Personal View

Here’s a bit of my story as experienced in Concón, on Chile’s Pacific coast, just north of Viña del Mar (see the map below). It’s far less dramatic than many, but it’s also good for people to know that the entire country has not collapsed. Continue reading

Chile’s Earthquake hits 8.8

Woke up with a bang– literally–at 3:35 this morning. By now you’ve all heard that most of Chile was hit by one of the strongest earthquakes on record with a magnitude of 8.8 (the world’s largest was also in Chile–9.5 in Valdivia in May 1960). Continue reading

Earthquake? Waiting for the “Big One”

The Earth moved last night. Happens a lot around here. A bit of late-night shake, rattle, and roll that heightens all the senses and leaves us momentarily breathless. No, I’m not revealing any personal information here… I’m talking about Santiago’s latest temblor, or tremor, that literally jolted us awake at 4:05 this morning. (I know Abby   felt it too!)

It wasn’t a big onejust IV (Moderate) on the Mercalli Scale in Santiago (IIISlightin Valparaíso). But the thing about earthquakes is that they are absolutely unpredictable, and once they start there’s no way to know if this is “the Big One.”

Think about it. Hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, cyclones, floods, tidal waves, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, and any other kind of potentially disastrous natural phenomenon you can come up with gives some kind of warning, but not an earthquake. It just sneaks up on you when you’re least expecting it at any time at all. Just happens, and in Chile, it happens a lot. Chile has more seismic activity (tremors and earthquakes) than any other country on Earth. Yep! Not only the most, but the biggest too… The 1960 earthquake in Valdivia (southern Chile) registered 9.5 on the Richter scale, the highest in recorded history!

So, it seems reasonable enough to believe that this kind of terrestrial instability would have to have some kind of psychological effect on people, right? And that it could-should-might ripple out to a more globalized cultural effect, wouldn’t it?

I can’t help but wonder if the seemingly generalized tendency toward short- rather than long-term planning, toward patching over fixing, toward the “we could die tomorrow” attitude that I get from my husband whenever I talk about retirement planning has anything to do with the constant awareness that the chain can be yanked, the plug pulled, the rug whisked from under your feet at any moment has anything to do with it. And it just seems to fit.

It’s not easy to make plans when you know that the world can turn upside down at any moment. There you are, just minding your own business, going about your life and wham… London Bridge Puente Arzobispo comes falling down, along with everything else around you… or then again, not… you just never know.

Central Chile’s last big-big earthquake was in March 1985. They say the big ones come every 15 or 20 years, so doing the math, it looks like we’re now overdue for a beaut! But then again, you never know. There’s no way at all to tell. You just have to learn to live with things you can’t control and accept that the things you think you control can come undone in the blink of an eye or a point on the Richter scale.

Richter vs Mercalli?

The Richter Scale measures the magnitude of the energy released at the source of an earthquake and is indicated by numbers generally ranging from <2 to 10+.

The Mercalli Scale  is a more subjective measurement of the perceived intensity of the event  and is indicated in Roman numerals (I-IX).