Friday, March 5, 2010

Chile Earthquake 2010 Part II One week Later

Not all of Chile is like the images you see in the media. The media is showing the worst areas and the worst images for good reasons (areas that still need help) and bad reasons (more exciting headlines).

The photo is from several days ago-things are normal except for a few things like the skewed letters-It used to read "Fashion's Park"-the not so great English is "normal".

As most people know, the tsunamis caused much of the devastation, entire small towns wiped away. there's a lot of political sniping about warnings and whether people were warned quickly enough etc., etc.....but I know-and I have never lived on the coast but have visited coastal areas in Chile and Oregon-when an earthquake happens, as soon as you can run, you do. You can't wait for warnings. I read a story in which the grandparents saved their grandson's life by running to high ground. There is often little time to waste.

And the number of dead...truthfully, they don't know. Of course many fled the affected areas and many could have been washed out to sea and it is hard to know how many dead and how many missing until people are found or bodies discovered. Some of the numbers are here at the government site-they have apparently identified 279 dead. They say less but you will get different numbers in different places. The government said on Thursday the death toll, previously reported as 802, was unclear due to confusion over who was missing. Officials said they had identified 279 dead people, but were not sure how many bodies were unidentified.

I hate it that politics as usual as entered into this catastrophe so quickly.The Chilean earthquake hit just days before the landmark transition from outgoing President Michelle Bachelet to conservative President-elect Sebastian Piñera, and that is reopening old political fault lines that would better remain closed, says Peter M. Siavelis, director of Latin American Studies at Wake Forest University....Beneath Chile’s vaunted market economy is the perseverance of a historically powerful state,” Siavelis says. “Chile’s effective regulatory power, especially in the area of construction, prepared and built the capacity to both withstand and respond to such a catastrophic disaster in a way that a minimalist state could never have.” ...Of course the opposition and incoming government believe the opposite, that lives would have been saved had they been in power. Certainly, it is in the incoming government's coalition best interests to discredit President Bachelet because they do not want to run against her again in four years-she has been the most popular president in the history of Chile with over 80% approval ratings. The mayor of Concepcion has been the most vocal critic but it should be noted she is of the far-right UDI party(the party of Pinochet).

And the WSJ credits Friedman and laizze faire economics-what has happened to the Wall Street Journal???? Oh yeah, that's a Murdoch newspaper now.... the Huffingtonpost does a piece refuting the myth of Friedman's self named "miracle" a little. Friedman-style economic policies actually had Chile on a steep, downward path into Haitian-style privation. This is all ably documented by James Petras and Steve Vieux in "The Chilean 'Economic Miracle': An Empirical Critique". Under the guidance of the Chicago Boys, Pinochet concentrated wealth in the hands of the upper class, while wages and social services budgets declined. The authors similarly document a massive unemployment crisis in Chile during the Friedman period, which rose as high as 30%. Chileans generally credit Pinochet for putting more people in homes, but as a 1985 Mother Jones article points out, this was largely due to effective PR -- the housing rate under Pinochet "was actually slower than it was under" the two previous governments.

And wow, the banks. Greg Palast documents the carnage wrought by gangster speculators...

And Chile had the largest earthquake ever in 1960 which "took more than 2,000 lives and caused property damage estimated at $550 million (1960 dollars)." This happened in a much less populated Chile. Truly, I was unable to get what might be a real count-estimates of the dead in 1960 went as high as 5000. And I wonder if they counted the indigenous population.

But the above link has some nice historical photos, information and stories about the 1960 earthquake-it was caused by the same geological movement as the 2010 earthquake, so much of the information pertains as well.

Life is surprisingly normal here, although the isolated areas are still reeling from the quake. There are no longer even long gas lines or long lines at the grocery stores. The images you see are from the worst areas. It reminds me of effects from a from a really bad hailstorm we had in Denver back in the 80s.

A few random thoughts. people here get paid once a month on the first so because the quake hit just at the end of the month, people tend to be very low on food and supplies-hence the rush to the grocery stores afterwards. Always there are long lines on the first, worsened after the quake. But they also tend to stand very patiently in normally long lines to pay bills on the first too.

And one more link. "Chile has seen many earthquakes both before the 1960 record-setting temblor and after. Two very large contenders have happened on March 3, 1985, and another on July 30, 1995. These earthquakes both had a magnitude of about 8. Chilean earthquakes are not rare, nor are they small. Large earthquakes in Chile seem, through history, to occur about every 25 to 100 years. They'll continue as long as the Pacific plate continues subducting."

Things are normal here... except for those of us are a little more nervous with every aftershock(I hate the aftershocks and small earthquakes that I used to ignore). I'm glad I'm not on the coast....


Suzanne's Chilean Sabbatical said...

As usual, great post and great commentary, Laura!
Guelph, ON, Canada
(now Providencia, Santiago)
p.s. How do I link you to my blog?

tiktok said...
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Vicki said...

Ditto for Susanne's comment...always thoughtful and informative posts Laura. Hope life is returning to normal and that the coming winter season is kind. Disasters are always awful, but sometimes it seems as if it brings us all back to what is important, and in general brings people together. People from all over Chile, including the recently displaced people of Chaiten now living in Futaleufu, Puerto Montt and other towns, gave generously to relief efforts...sending truckloads of food and supplies north, and stood in line at the bank to donate, luca by luca, to their fellow Chilenos. South in Aysen where only a few years ago they were plagued with an awful seige of temblors and a tsunami, there was not a car not painted with support signs and the grocery stores had bins overflowing with groceries and staple items. I was humbled by the incredible out pouring of generosity!

Keep up the wonderful blog!

Suzanne's Chilean Sabbatical said...

Hi Laura,
how are you? Still in the U.S.?

Question for you -- where exactly is Pirque???!!! Drove out to Cajon del Maipo yesterday (to Termas Las Colinas) and planned on sightseeing in Pirque but... never found it!

Anyway, hope all is well with you!

Suzanne (from Canada)

Laura said...

Hi Suzanne!

Darn, sorry I can't meet you in Pirque! I am in the US-it's spring here. The easiest way to find Pirque is to follow Concha y Toro's directions:

Or Google Concha y Toro pirque

You weren't far :)

I need to post soon, glad to hear from you!

Suzanne's Chilean Sabbatical said...

Hi Laura,

well, maybe we can have tea in Pirque next time, as the kids and I are (also) leaving Chile next week.

My two absolutely want to come back though -- and next year!! So, let's stay in touch, because who knows, I just might be able to pull it off.

(My full name is Suzanne Soto and I'm on Facebook, Linked In, etc. and my personal email should be listed at the bottom of this message.)

All the very best to you!


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