Chile's preparation keeps quake casualties relatively low

13:54, March 03, 2010      

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The 8.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked Chile early Saturday was 800 to 900 times more powerful than the 7.3-magnitude quake that shook Haiti on Jan. 12 but the death toll has been 370 times lower.

An estimated 270,000 died in the Caribbean country, while the catastrophe in the Latin American nation has claimed over 700 lives so far.

Analysts say one important reason is that the Chilean government and the local people were well prepared for the disaster.

The country's constitution has fundamental laws that define the responsibilities of the central government in dealing with catastrophic events. And local government laws set out the duties of local officials in dealing with disasters.

In 2002, the country introduced a plan, defining the concrete measures central and local governments should take in every phase of coping with a catastrophe.

The Chilean government has played an important role in dealing with the earthquake, analysts say.

The government has established a national emergency rescue office to coordinate rescue work in the quake-hit areas, help resume order and reconstruct. Through the office, the central government can react quickly when confronting natural disasters, including earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis.

Compared with Chile, Haiti has a turbulent political situation and no sound government. The Caribbean country was not prepared for the quake, analysts said.

Moreover, Chilean architect Monica Jarpa said all the buildings in the country had to comply with very strict building regulations set by the government, in a bid to withstand earthquakes.

Construction companies were used to building with earthquakes in mind, analysts said, adding that good architectural structures prevented the country from suffering more than Haiti.

The government has also organized nationwide anti-disaster drills. In 1995, the number of drill participants reached 350,000.

Schoolchildren practise earthquake drills three times a year in what is known as Operacion DEYSE, lining up when the alarm sounds and filing into the designated open space, according to the British Daily Telegraph

Successfully dealing with catastrophes needed every person's participation, analysts said, adding that consciousness of disaster prevention had been included in the country's seismic culture.

Chile was located in the the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire" - an area of frequent earthquake and volcanic eruptions. Of the world's recorded 12 strongest quakes measuring over 8.6 on the Richter scale, four occurred in the country, including the world's strongest ever 9.5-magnitude quake in 1960.

Every workplace is required to have an earthquake emergency procedure, and any Chilean could tell you to take cover under a table or seek refuge under the main door frame of the house, the Daily Telegraph said.

Everyone knows which are the structural walls of their house, as these are the least likely to collapse, the paper added.

Source: Xinhua
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