News - September 24, 2015

Meanwhile in… Chile

In the news: Chile was struck last week by a very strong earthquake, 8.3 on the Richter Scale. At least ten people were killed and more than a million people were evacuated.

Commentary by Sebastián Decap Swinburn, MSc student of Animal Sciences.

‘There was talk of nothing else in Chile for the past week. News programmes broadcast nonstop about the earthquake and the papers were full of it too. Fortunately all my family are fi ne. My aunt’s kiosk was reduced to rubble though. It was a little stall from which she sold food. Luckily there is only material damage and nobody I know was injured.

Nature is hitting us hard this year. There was a landslide in the north and a volcano erupted in the south. And now this severe earthquake. The damage has been relatively limited. Chile is prepared for earthquakes. We have an ‘earthquake culture’. Buildings are reinforced, people know what they should do, and in schools children are taught ‘what to do if there is an earthquake’. As a precaution against a tsunami the entire coastline was evacuated.

But this was a severe earthquake even by Chilean standards. I have only experienced minor earthquakes. I was in Australia when the big earthquake of 2010 happened (8.8 on the Richter Scale and 800 dead). At that time it was impossible to contact family and friends because of power cuts.

I only know about the strongest earthquake in human history from stories. That was in 1960, an earthquake of 9.5 on the Richter Scale. The whole earth convulsed and it was almost impossible to stay standing up. That was a huge catastrophe. But we are used to minor earthquakes in Chile. We just have to live with them. Just like the Dutch have to live with rain.’