Man or Nature

I can’t really comment on what it is like to be in Chile right now. I think I have felt things in the 4/5 range in Chile— but 8.8! Never. And, yet, it is so hard to be here, on the outside, not knowing what is going on. Waiting for the phone lines to resume and wondering. Even now, after talking to both my families and S, I wonder who I have forgotten, I wonder who is missing.
I can’t tell you how it really was—other bloggers, however, are doing a great job. So far I have read:

I don’t however want to just talk about the experience of watching an earthquake from the outside. I want to talk about how I am feeling on the inside. This episode so clearly demonstrates that it is not earthquakes that kill people, but rather the poverty they live in and the way we as a society have chosen to cut corners to keep down costs. This earthquake was stronger than the one in Haiti; yet, at the end of the day, there will be less deaths. Constructions in Chile are meant to withstand earthquakes—the country is, after all, on a fault line. In fact, there are laws about how sound structures need to be to get permits and be built. Too many of the images I see are of new structures (meaning corners were cut and safety precautions were not taken) or poor neighborhoods (safety was thrown out the window for cost).

I get that there would have been damages anyways. I get that people probably would have died. I get how huge and scary the experience must have been— and I am not trying to take that away from anyone. I am just looking for social responsibility and a recognition that we have the capacity to stop much of the death toll when we want/chose/have the political will/invest to.

I will finish with Nicholas D. Kristof’s facebook post this morning: The Chile and Haiti earthquakes remind us that it’s not just natural disasters that kill, but also poverty. So many died in Haiti because many homes were cheap and fragile. Chile is far better off and though the quake magnitude was 1000 times greater, casualties may be fewer. A 1960 quake in the same spot in Chile was even stronger but killed only 1655 people.

And a shout out on the photo—which I did not take as I am not in Chile. But, the person who took it has great photos in the series. Click on the photo and go check them out!



  1. Clare, I agree with you. If you think about it a earthquake of the magnitude of 8.8 and less then 1000 people dead (say thousand because unfortunately the confirmed dead count will rise). The construction here is amazing and it is partly because of money and partly because of good laws.

    Chile only has a third of the GDP of the US and in some more developed economies the death toll would be a lot higher. If you think about the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake (Italy) which was 6.3 and killed more than 300.

    However I do agree with your assesment: “it’s not just natural disasters that kill, but also poverty”

    A side note. We have now had a full day of calling friends in Chile – non of our friends has injuries and non of our friends knows any friends with injuries.

  2. Hi Andre, and whomever else, I just want to make sure that it is understood that in my comparison and the above is anger that the Chilean government did not and is not doing a better job to protect its citizens. I hear more about sending the army to repress looters (many of whom are getting food and water for their families– things that should be provided in a country with chile’s wealth) than I do about what is going to happen to the contractors who built buildings not to code which fell. Too many of the shots I see on TV are of new construction and poor neighborhood. I am pained for my country and what is happening in it. I am pained for the people who are lost and who have lost. My heart bleeds every time I think of friends I have yet to locate, but I am angry that people weren’t evacuated before the tsunami.

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