March 14, 2011
Waves in the Pacific basin following the massive earthquake in Japan left more than 200 damaged homes in Chile. However, the event also sparked important corrections to prediction criteria for future disasters. Habitat for Humanity Chile is developing emergency disaster prevention plans in partnership with isolated communities.
SANTIAGO, Chile (March 14, 2011) – More than 200 houses were damaged in the waves that crashed against the coast of Chile following the March 11 earthquake in Japan. The main damage occurred to houses, as well as boats and other water craft, in Puerto Viejo and Dichato. Local businesses and a pedestrian bridge were damaged in Puerto Coquimbo.
The event, however, did serve to help prepare the country for future disasters, generating an emergency drill that mobilized 650,000 people from the coastal areas of the country. No panic situations were reported and there was effective communication between local authorities and emergency workers.
Also as a result of the event, which was predicted hours before it hit, scientists and disaster professionals were able to monitor the effects of the seismic wave in detail, test simulations and correct the prediction criteria for future disasters. The majority of cases in which ocean waters swept into the coast were via canals, rivers and water currents. The enormous length of the Chilean coast contains a variety of bays and inlets, each with distinct orientations, shapes and currents – resulting in an equally diverse number of effects on the nearby communities. While the Talcahuano inlet amplifies the effects of a tsunami, and was severely affected by the February 2010 tsunami, other inlets may be affected differently.
For many families, especially in the coastal zones of central Chile, this exercise meant reliving the emotionally difficult moments lived just a short time ago. “All of us in Chile know that an equally powerful event could be approaching in the extreme north of the country,” says Henry Herrera Vallejos, Projecto Coordinator for Habitat for Humanity Chile. “For this reason, the people in this region lived this event in a different way – worried, but responsible; fearful, but every day more organized.”
About Habitat for Humanity Latin America and the Caribbean
Habitat for Humanity  first opened its doors in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) in 1979, and has since helped more than 100,000 low-income families to access adequate housing in the region. Headquartered in San Jose, Costa Rica, the Latin America and Caribbean regional office coordinates the efforts of 16 national organizations, as well as unique partnerships throughout the region. For more information, visit habitatlatino.org .
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