By FRANK BAJAK, The Associated Press, Updated: February 27, 2010 8:20 PM
CHILE WAS READY FOR QUAKE, HAITI WASN'T
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - The earthquake in Chile was far stronger than the one that struck Haiti last month — yet the death toll in this Caribbean nation is magnitudes higher.
The reasons are simple.
Chile is wealthier and infinitely better prepared, with strict building codes, robust emergency response and a long history of handling seismic catastrophes. No living Haitian had experienced a quake at home when the Jan. 12 disaster crumbled their poorly constructed buildings.
And Chile was relatively lucky this time.
Saturday's quake was centered offshore an estimated 21 miles underground in a relatively unpopulated area while Haiti's tectonic mayhem struck closer to the surface — about 8 miles — and right on the edge of Port-au-Prince, factors that increased its destructiveness.
"Earthquakes don't kill — they don't create damage — if there's nothing to damage," said Eric Calais, a Purdue University geophysicist studying the Haiti quake.
The U.S. Geological Survey says eight Haitian cities and towns — including this capital of 3 million — suffered "violent" to "extreme" shaking in last month's 7-magnitude quake, which Haiti's government estimates killed some 220,000 people and left about 1.2 homeless. Chile's death toll was in the hundreds.
By contrast, no Chilean urban area suffered more than "severe" shaking — the third most serious level — Saturday in its 8.8-magnitude disaster, by USGS measure. The quake was centered 200 miles away from Chile's capital and largest city, Santiago.
In terms of energy released at the epicenter, said Calais, the Chilean quake was 900 times stronger. But energy dissipates rather quickly as distances grow from epicenters — and the ground beneath Port-au-Prince is less stable by comparison and "shakes like jelly," says University of Miami geologist Tim Dixon.
Survivors of Haiti's quake described abject panic — much of it well-founded as buildings imploded around them. Many Haitians grabbed cement pillars only to watch them crumble in their hands. Haitians were not schooled in how to react — by sheltering under tables and door frames, and away from glass windows.
Chileans, on the other hand, have homes and offices built to ride out quakes, their steel skeletons designed to sway with seismic waves rather than resist them.
"When you look at the architecture in Chile you see buildings that have damage, but not the complete pancaking that you've got in Haiti," said Cameron Sinclair, executive director of Architecture for Humanity, a 10-year-old nonprofit that has helped people in 36 countries rebuild after disasters.
Sinclair said he has architect colleagues in Chile who have built thousands of low-income housing structures to be earthquake resistant.
In Haiti, by contrast, there is no building code.
Patrick Midy, a leading Haitian architect, said he knew of only three earthquake-resistant buildings in the Western Hemisphere's poorest country.
Sinclair's San Francisco-based organization received 400 requests for help the day after the Haiti quake but he said it had yet to receive a single request for help for Chile.
"On a per-capita basis, Chile has more world-renowned seismologists and earthquake engineers than anywhere else," said Brian E. Tucker, president of GeoHazards International, a nonprofit organization based in Palo Alto, California.
Their advice is heeded by the government in Latin America's wealthiest nation, getting built not just into architects' blueprints and building codes but also into government contingency planning.
"The fact that the president (Michelle Bachelet) was out giving minute-to-minute reports a few hours after the quake in the middle of the night gives you an indication of their disaster response," said Sinclair.
Most Haitians didn't know whether their president, Rene Preval, was alive or dead for at least a day after the quake. The National Palace and his residence — like most government buildings — had collapsed.
Haiti's TV, cell phone networks and radio stations were knocked off the air by the seismic jolt.
Col. Hugo Rodriguez, commander of the Chilean aviation unit attached to the U.N. peacekeeping force in Haiti, waited anxiously Saturday with his troops for word from loved ones at home.
'We are organized' He said he knew his family was OK and expressed confidence that Chile would ride out the disaster.
"We are organized and prepared to deal with a crisis, particularly a natural disaster," Rodriguez said. "Chile is a country where there are a lot of natural disasters."
Calais, the geologist, noted that frequent seismic activity is as common to Chile as it is to the rest of the Andean ridge. Chile experienced the strongest earthquake on record in 1960, and Saturday's quake was the nation's third of over magnitude-8.7.
"It's quite likely that every person there has felt a major earthquake in their lifetime," he said, "whereas the last one to hit Port-au-Prince was 250 years ago."
"So who remembers?"
On Port-au-Prince's streets Saturday, many people had not heard of Chile's quake. More than half a million are homeless, most still lack electricity and are preoccupied about trying to get enough to eat.
Fanfan Bozot, a 32-year-old reggae singer having lunch with a friend, could only shake his head at his government's reliance on international relief to distribute food and water.
"Chile has a responsible government," he said, waving his hand in disgust. "Our government is incompetent."
Sunday, February 28, 2010
The earthquake really did a job on our walls surrounding the property! In order to repair the walls we had to move out Lukners' old wreck of a tap-tap. Since we didn't have a key the soldiers carried the tap-tap outside to the street.
This is a junk pose of the earthquake damage.
On Monday morning the Canadian military came to start doing some work on our walls! We scrambled to make sure they had all the materials they needed to do the repairs.
A few years ago this side wall was used by the notorious "Judas Gang" to climb into the yard to steal and cause problems. When the wall was down the military put up barbed wire on the ground to impede access to the yard.
2 stacked rows of barbed wire formed a secure temporary wall! This was necessary because the other wall on Delmas 31 was down too! We had no problems with security while the wall was completely down. The Judas Gang stayed away!
The playground equipment was constructed quickly!
The guys kept busy building the new wall. The wall grew quickly.
We appreciate the assistance of the Canadian military here in Haiti. Everybody should know how hard they are working to improve the lives of the Haitian people here in Haiti.
Manu helped out on guard duty in front of the house.
While the focus here at Coram Deo was on repairs this week some of the medical people staying here helped by volunteering at General Hospital. International medical people have been working out of these tents which are in the courtyard of the hospital. The hospital buildings are not being used. Some of the buildings were damaged during the earthquake. This tent is one of the pediatric tents.
In this area is the emergency room and triage area.
Karen Bosma helped out one day in the orthopedics tent.
The United States military is providing security for the medical personnel working at the hospital.
The "Decompression Plan" for Port-au-Prince. This plan is for the removal of the estimated 63 million tons of rubble throughout the city. In front of our house this week were a series of dump trucks waiting to haul away the rubble that was piled across from us.
It was perfect timing for us because this past weeks' focus was on repairs and removing the rubble from our yard. All we had to do was cross the street and add our rubble to the quickly growing rubble pile.
The loader filled up the dump trucks quickly and they pulled away one after the other throughout the day.
A work team led by Tim and Kim Bos of Mission of T.E.A.R.S. came this week. They are joined by Jackie Bultje, Brian Dalrymple, Jantje Scheele, and Greg Van Veen. We give the Lord thanks for those who are willing to rough it out at our Coram Deo compound. Here is everyone setting up the Hotel Bos!
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
The children in this tent camp are flying a kite and enjoying themselves. The haitian people are a strong people and they will overcome the earthquake damage.
Nick and Chuck found 200 children's t-shirts which were thrown at the side of a road. 2 of these orphan children are wearing a couple of them. We give thanks for this "manna" of clothing found by the side of the road.
This is the first time in 14 years that both of my sisters came to Haiti! It was nice to spend some time with them.
Commercial flights started again to Haiti on Friday. There was a lot of traffic jams. The airport terminal was damaged by the earthquake and the Air Cargo building is being used for arrivals until the airport is repaired. People have to haul their luggage through the street to get to nearby vehicles.
More patience is needed now when passing through the airport arrival area.
Bodies of some of the dead are buried near the road. This marker is a site where 3 bodies are buried. The recovery process is slow.
This elderly man was happy to receive a tarp. Next to food and water shelter is the biggest need right now as the rainy season approaches.
We went to an area of airport road which is hidden behind a wall of containers. Inside the container compound are many Penske transport trucks.
Thousands of tents were collected by people in the London and Barrie regions of Ontario and sent to Haiti. They arrived and are now being distributed by the missions on the ground here in Haiti. We call this compound "Canadian Tire"!
Some unwanted visitors came onto the compound to watch what was going on with the trucks.