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SHAKE AND BLOW
Lessons from 2010 quake saved lives in Chile: experts
By Paulina ABRAMOVICH
Santiago (AFP) Sept 19, 2015


Japan warns residents as small tsunami waves hit coast
Tokyo (AFP) Sept 18, 2015 - Japan lifted its tsunami warning on Friday after advising residents to stay away from the sea as about a dozen small waves reached its coast after a powerful earthquake off Chile.

Japan's Meteorological Agency said it was safe to return to the water at 04:40 pm (0740 GMT).

The agency had warned of waves up to one metre (3.3 feet) high after a huge earthquake that killed at least 11 people hit Chile and ravaged long stretches of the coast on Wednesday.

A tsunami surge of 80 centimetres (32 inches) was recorded off the northeast coastal city of Kuji earlier in the day, but still more than 24 hours after the 8.3-magnitude tremor.

The Chilean quake was the sixth most powerful in the history of the geologically volatile country and the strongest anywhere in the world this year, officials said.

Meteorological agency official Yohei Hasegawa warned in a hastily arranged press conference in the morning that residents should "stay away from working in the water or playing in the sea".

"At this level of tsunami we don't have to worry that the land will be inundated, but underwater currents could be very strong and you may be washed away," he said.

Public address systems all along the coast had broadcast warnings, while emergency vehicles patrolled with their sirens blaring, telling people to keep away from the shore.

"We have not received any reports of damage to buildings or injuries in connection with the tsunami," said Daiki Numabukuro, a Kuji city official.

"But we keep calling on our residents to stay away from the coast for now," he told AFP.

Local television showed no visible damage to Japanese coastal regions from the waves.

Large areas of Japan's coastline -- including Kuji -- covered by the agency's advisory were wiped out by the 2011 quake and tsunami, which triggered a nuclear accident in Fukushima.

The 9.0 undersea quake set off a massive tsunami that swamped cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, sparking the worst atomic accident in a generation.

Lessons learned from a devastating quake five years ago when Chile's authorities were accused of failing the population helped limit the toll from this week's powerful earthquake, experts say.

Thirteen people were killed in the 8.3-magnitude quake and subsequent tsunami that ravaged a stretch of Chile's northern coast on Wednesday night.

The shoreline in Coquimbo, the worst-hit coastal city, was a jumble of fishing boats, destroyed homes, trucks, vendors' stands and cars washed up by the tsunami waves.

But the human toll was thankfully far lower than in February 2010, when an 8.8-magnitude quake and tsunami left 500 people dead.

"Chile's investment in resilient infrastructure, early warning systems and urban planning have ensured that casualties have been low on this occasion, despite the intensity of the earthquake," Margareta Wahlstroem, head of the UN disaster reduction agency UNISDR, said in a statement on the quake response.

- Mixed messages -

Five years ago, the authorities sent out a series of mixed messages in the quake aftermath. People returned to their homes on the coast after a tsunami alert was lifted -- only for a killer wave to strike in the following hours, claiming more than 100 lives.

Chilean courts are still trying to determine responsibility for the fiasco.

"The 2010 quake, which directly affected 70 percent of the population, triggered an awareness that would not otherwise have come about," said Sergio Barrientos of the Chilean national seismology center.

This week's quake was the most powerful recorded anywhere in the world this year, and the sixth strongest in the history of geologically volatile Chile.

But this time, within minutes of the quake, the navy launched a tsunami alert covering the entire country, triggering the evacuation of a million people, who have since gradually been returning home.

"The evacuation of one million people ensured that there was no repetition of the loss of life which happened five years ago," Wahlstroem said.

- Seismic isolation -

Chile lies on what is known as the "Ring of Fire" -- an arc of fault lines that circles the Pacific Basin and is prone to frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

The country has long put in place antiseismic engineering systems, applying a technique known as seismic isolation, or base isolation to protect buildings from the earth's judders.

"Strong quakes are so frequent in Chile that our engineers have designed infrastructure and buildings able to withstand them," said Barrientos.

Back in 2010, those norms already limited damage to 0.3 percent of buildings in Santiago.

This week's quake occurred 228 kilometers (about 140 miles) north of the capital, where it set buildings swaying but caused no major damage.

Across the country, material damage has largely been limited to lightweight structures of wood or packed earth.

Chilean authorities have yet to put a financial figure on the damage, but it is not expected to come anywhere near the $30 billion -- 18 percent of Chile's GDP -- suffered five years ago.

The national emergency service ONEMI has also been leading a big push to educate the population, organizing frequent drills and visiting schools to simulate earthquake situations.

"We have learned to live with these phenomena," said Barrientos. "It's part of our daily lives to deal with the possible consequences of earthquakes."

Thousands left homeless by giant Chile quake
Santiago (AFP) Sept 21, 2015 - More than 9,000 people were left homeless after a powerful earthquake hit northern and central Chile last week, officials said Sunday, dramatically increasing previous estimates.

The death toll from the 8.3 magnitude quake that struck on September 16 remained at 13, with four still missing, said Deputy Interior Minister Mahmud Aleuy.

The number of people left homeless however jumped drastically from 3,500, as officials scour remote towns in the Coquimbo region, more than 260 kilometers north of Santiago, where the quake epicenter was located.

"We hope that by Friday we will have surveyed all of the people who were affected," Aleuy said.

The offshore earthquake was the sixth strongest in the history of geologically volatile Chile and the most powerful anywhere in the world this year, officials say.

Emergency personnel backed by soldiers were still busy cleaning up the coastal city of Coquimbo, which was a jumble of fishing boats, destroyed homes, vendors' stands and vehicles washed up by the tsunami waves that followed the quake.

Public Works Minister Alberto Undurraga toured the city on Sunday, and said that only 25 percent of the area's cleanup work had been completed.

The tsunami crashed ashore just minutes after about one million people were evacuated from the shoreline following the quake.

The human toll was far lower than in February 2010, when an 8.8-magnitude quake and tsunami left 500 people dead.

Chilean authorities have yet to put a financial figure on the damage, but it is not expected to come anywhere near the $30 billion -- 18 percent of Chile's GDP -- suffered five years ago.

The national emergency service ONEMI reported Sunday that 647 homes were destroyed, 1,183 families were without power and 2,400 were without drinking water.


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SHAKE AND BLOW
Chile quake kills 10, one million evacuated
Illapel, Chile (AFP) Sept 17, 2015
A million people were evacuated in Chile after an 8.3-magnitude quake struck offshore in the Pacific, killing at least 10 people and triggering tsunami waves along its northern coast. Wednesday night's earthquake was the sixth most powerful in the history of geologically volatile Chile and the strongest anywhere in the world this year, officials said. Buildings swayed as far away as in B ... read more


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