A car is surrounded by debris in a flooded street after an earthquake-triggered tsunami hit Concon, Chile, Thursday, September 17, 2015. AP Photo/Matias Delacroix

A large tremor struck central Chile on Wednesday, but the country had learned from the past.

In Chile, at least eight people have died and one person is missing after an 8.3 magnitude earthquake struck the central part of the country Wednesday night. More than one million people have been evacuated.

Waves between 6 and 15 feet high rolled into Chile’s coastal cities following the earthquake, though tsunami warnings have since been lifted. Hundreds of thousands are without power, and about 1,800 in the city of Illapel have no drinking water. But according to reports, early signs suggest that the death toll will be much lower than Chile’s 8.8 earthquake in 2010, and a fraction of Nepal’s devastating 7.8 tremblor this April.

Chile is among the most seismically active places on the planet, and has recently poured millions into upgrading building codes, earthquake sensing systems and national warning and evacuation procedures. The earthquake there in 2010 was a wake-up call for officials to shift their approach to disaster preparedness: A large portion of the 525 people who died in that event were killed by the ensuing tsunami, for which the government had failed to issue a warning.

“The 2010 earthquake provided us with an enormous learning opportunity,” Helia Vargas, an official at Chile’s national emergency service, told the New York Times after an 8.2 magnitude earthquake hit the country in 2014.

On Wednesday, older buildings in some coastal cities did suffer severe damage and flooding, but the government was quick to issue tsunami advisories. Accustomed to large-scale quakes, people knew how to respond.

By contrast, in Nepal, a lack of building-code enforcement left the country extraordinarily vulnerable. "In a place like Kathmandu, a new building pops up every day which has not been built to code," Robert Piper, a former resident coordinator for the United Nations in Nepal told the Thompson Reuters Foundation. "Buildings kill people, not earthquakes." It was only in June that the country installed an earthquake warning system.

Today, abnormally large waves are expected along coasts in Mexico, Ecuador, Japan, Russia, New Zealand, and the U.S. In California, NOAA forecasters predict “strong currents or waves dangerous to persons in or very near the water” along the state’s southern and central shores early this morning, though major inundation isn’t expected.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Perspective

    Untangling the Housing Shortage and Gentrification

    Untangling these related but different problems is important, because the tactics for solving one won’t work for the other.

  2. A cyclist rides on the bike lane in the Mid Market neighborhood during Bike to Work Day in San Francisco,
    Perspective

    Why We Need to Dream Bigger Than Bike Lanes

    In the 1930s big auto dreamed up freeways and demanded massive car infrastructure. Micromobility needs its own Futurama—one where cars are marginalized.

  3. a photo of police and residents of Stockton, CA, in a trust-building workshop
    Equity

    A Police Department’s Difficult Assignment: Atonement

    In Stockton, California, city and law enforcement leaders are attempting to build trust between police and communities of color. Why is this so hard to do?

  4. a photo of the Maryland Renaissance Festival
    Life

    The Utopian Vision That Explains Renaissance Fairs

    What’s behind the enduring popularity of all these medieval-themed living-history festivals?

  5. Navigator

    How to See Fall Colors Without a Car

    Americans often hit the road to see fall foliage, but it can be difficult to take the same trip without a car. These places make it a little easier.

×