The rest of the world has much to learn from Chile’s impeccable record of managing disasters. Despite her repeated encounter with disasters, she has impeccably proved to the world to respond and manage them well.
The majority of the disasters are caused by earthquakes and the collapsing of mines, it being a predominantly mining country. Still fresh in our minds is the recent disaster of San Jose Mine which collapsed over 33 miners, trapping them for approximately 70 days. The miners were miraculously and dramatically rescued on 13 and 14 October 2010.
The cause of the two kinds of disasters is the delicate morphology and geographical location of the country. She has so far experienced well over 25 major earthquakes.
The first recorded major earthquake struck on 16 December 1575 at Valdivia. Fortunately, there were no known casualties recorded. The second one was on 8 July 1730 at Valparaiso with a magnitude of 8.7. The third one was on 25 May 1751 at Concepcion with a magnitude of 8.5. The last known major earthquake was on 11 March 2010 at Pichilemu with a magnitude of 6.9.
The most devastating earthquake was at Valdivia on 22 May 1960, described as the Great Chilean Earthquake. It had a magnitude of 9.5. It was so devastating that it claimed approximately 6,000 lives.
Another similarly devastating earthquake was on 25 January 1939 at Chillan with a magnitude of 7.8. It claimed 3,000 lives. Another one was on 27 March 2010 at Maule with a magnitude of 8.8. It claimed 486 lives.
The San Jose Mine Disaster
The spectacular handling of the rescue operation at San Jose Mine of all 33 miners on 13 and 14 October 2010 respectively from the deep of approximately 700 metres, after approximately 70 days, within a record time of 40 days of drilling the borehole is a demonstration of the country’s great ability to manage disasters.
The Chilean Government and development partners have over the years succeeded making the majority of the country’s population resilient by preparing, training and fully involving them in disaster prevention and management.
Their resilience is highly built. Disaster prevention and management structures are built throughout the country’s hierarchy beginning from grassroots to national level. They are also regularly trained and retrained, and so are there effective contingent plans. Government policies, plans and budgets highly integrate and provide for disaster prevention and management.
As compared to how the earthquake of Tuesday 12 January 2010, on the contrary, devastated Haiti and kind of caught them unaware, Chile is well prepared and quite experienced. In Haiti, at least 52 aftershocks measuring 4.5 or greater had been recorded by 24 January 2010.
Also an estimated 3 million people were affected by the quake, so was an estimated 230,000 people dead, 300,000 injured and 1,000,000 homeless. It was also estimated that 250,000 residences and 30,000 commercial buildings had collapsed or were severely damaged.
The earthquake caused major damage in Port-au-Prince, Jacmel and other settlements in the region. Many notable landmark buildings were significantly damaged or destroyed, including the Presidential Palace, the National Assembly building, the Port-au-Prince Cathedral, and the main prison.
Among those killed was the Archbishop of Port-au-Prince, Joseph Serge Miot and the opposition leader, Micha Gaillard. The headquarters of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), located in the capital, collapsed, killing many, including the Mission’s Chief, Hédi Annabi.
Chile does not experience such magnitude of casualties due to good preparation and response measures.
Dr Dale Mutabiirwa