Chile was struck last month by an 8.6-magnitude earthquake that killed 13 people and forced thousands to evacuate their homes. The tremor, followed by a tsunami, was the most powerful recorded since the beginning of the year in the world's most earthquake-prone country.
But what was perhaps most notable was the contrast between the quake's seismic force and the relatively few casualties, as well as limited material damage. Officials say this can be explained by a series of planning measures implemented after an 8.8-magnitude quake that killed more than 500 people in 2010.
Though humans can do little to either predict or prevent earthquakes, we can limit their disastrous consequences. Here, we take a look at recent innovative efforts around the world in avoiding the worst when the ground starts to shake.
LEARNING FROM THE PAST
Unlike five years ago, when contradictory orders led residents of Chile's coastal areas to stay at home just before a tsunami was about to hit, efficient procedures enabled the rapid evacuation of about one million people after September's earthquake, Santiago-based El Mercurio reports. A few minutes after the tremor, the navy issued a tsunami warning and sent texts to residents and the media in northern and central Chile.
In a country where residents must learn to cope with such natural disasters, authorities also conduct important preventive work. Thanks to more and more sophisticated satellites, seismologists are able to analyze high-definition images of recent earthquakes that take place about every 10 years around the contact zone between Nazca and South American tectonic plates, Le Monde reports. Hundreds of high-tech seismological stations, capable of detecting the slightest telluric movement and thus reacting rapidly, have also been built across the country. These advanced stations share the collected information with seismological centers all over the world.
This preventive work also includes conceiving and building infrastructure that can resist seismic tremor. The anti-earthquake standards enacted in the 1960s were significantly reinforced in Chile's urban areas in 2010. Buildings are made using reinforced concrete and steel that is sufficiently flexible and resistant to prevent collapse. The National Emergency Office of the Ministry of the Interior also regularly organizes evacuation simulations in schools across the country.