Tuesday, March 2, 2010

In Chile, building standards pay off— for some

Bill Lewis, senior editor for ZweigWhite's newsletters group, chimes in with this look at the differences and similarities in the aftermaths of the recent earthquakes in Haiti and Chile:

"The effects of last weekend’s Chilean earthquake and the Jan. 12 earthquake in Haiti illustrate the benefits of earthquake preparedness, as well as the punishing effects of poverty in both countries.

"Even though the Chilean earthquake was much stronger than that in Haiti, the death and damage tolls are much lower. There’s been a sense of earthquake consciousness in Chile for a half century— ever since a 9.5-magnitude quake struck the country in 1960. Building codes emphasize earthquake preparedness and schools hold periodic earthquake disaster drills.

"Still, both earthquakes show the vulnerability of the poor to natural disasters, whether they’re in the Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation, or in a relatively developed country like Chile. Architectural and engineering standards come at a price, one that’s apparently too high for the poorest areas of Chile. While the Chilean government initially declined offers of international disaster relief, it changed its mind two days after the quake, apparently underestimating the level of death and damage in the nation’s poorest urban and rural areas."

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