Unthinkable catastrophe, Chile President says of earthquake disaster

More than seven hundred people were killed and two million have been displaced by the magnitude 8.8 earthquake that struck Chile yesterday, according to news reports. (See Chile earthquake pictures.)

“We face a catastrophe of such unthinkable magnitude that it will require a giant effort” for Chile to recover, President Michelle Bachelet told a news conference at the presidential palace, the Associated Press said.

Bachelet ordered the military to take control of Concepcion, which was badly damaged by the temblor, one of the strongest on record. Widespread looting has broken out in Chile’s second-largest city a day after a the devastating earthquake, the Wall Street Journal reported.

“The mayor of Concepcion city has said food is running out and police used tear gas and water cannon against looters at a supermarket on Sunday,” the BBC said.

About 1.5 million homes and many roads and bridges across the affected region were damaged or destroyed, the BBC added.

Despite a massive evacuation of Hawaii, tsunamis in Hawaii measured only about three feet (one meter), too small to do any damage, Richard Lovett reported today for National Geographic News..

“But this doesn’t mean the tsunamis in Hawaii fizzled,” Costas Synolakis, director of the Tsunami Research Center at the University of Southern California, told Lovett. Read the full story: Hawaii Tsunamis Fell Short but Didn’t “Fizzle,” Expert Says.

The U.S. Geological Survey released two maps that model the differences between the tsunamis generated by the 1960 Chile earthquake (magnitude 9.5) and this weekend’s magnitude 8.8 quake.

Filled colors show maximum computed tsunami amplitude in centimeters during 24 hours of wave propagation. Black contours show computed tsunami arrival time.


1960 Chile tsunami (earthquake magnitude 9.5) maximum amplitude plot–for comparison with February 27, 2010 Chile tsunami event.

Image courtesy of NOAA


2010 Chile tsunami (earthquake magnitude 8.8) maximum amplitude plot.

Image courtesy of NOAA 

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More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn