Overview: 2010 Chile Earthquake

Situation

On February 27, 2010, at 3:34 AM, an earthquake measuring 8.8 Richter occurred near Santiago, Chile. It killed 486, severely damaged over 500,000 homes, collapsed 3 hospitals in Santiago and significantly damaged a dozen more south of the capital. On March 10, two insurance companies estimated the total insured damage between US$4 and 7 billion. In addition to direct damage, the earthquake caused a tsunami in Valparaíso that closed ports and structural damage to buildings. The greatest damage occurred in Constitución.

In the days that followed, people looted supermarkets in Concepción, stealing food, supplies and electronics. Tear gas was used to suppress looters. A prison riot broke out in the same city and 203 prisoners escaped, setting fire to nearby houses. People slept in tents in the parks and on the streets. Beer prices rose due to scarcity.

Response

President Bachelet asked that international aid be curtailed until Chile assessed its situation. On February 28, the government had reached an agreement with supermarkets to give away stocked basic foodstuffs to people affected by the earthquake. The Metro resumed partial operation two days later. On March 1, Chile deployed over 10,000 troops into affected areas and formally requested international aid, asking for a surgical field hospital, generators, telecom equipment, first aid supplies, civil engineering experts, and rescue teams. On March 4, President Bachelet said that Chile would need international loans and three to four years to rebuild.

Relevance

While the death toll is small compared to other earthquakes of similar magnitude, damage to buildings and infrastructure will take time to fully repair. Chile has not experienced an earthquake of this significance since the 1960 one in Valdivia. As a result, the younger generation may experience severe PTSD from this “first time” experience. Were mental health professionals deployed to treat emotional scars? Schools in affected regions did not reopen until April 12. Did children use this time constructively? Could schools have been operational sooner in temporary classrooms? Could schools effectively disseminate counseling services?

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