As the sun set in Chile on Saturday, a picture of the immense structural damage wrought by an early morning earthquake had come clearly into focus, with the nation’s president estimating that 2 million people had been affected in some way.
More than 300 people were killed, according to Chile’s Office of Emergency Management, and 15 are missing.
The carnage from the 8.8-magnitude quake didn’t begin to approach that unleashed by January’s earthquake in Haiti, which left 212,000 people dead and more than a million homeless, even though it was considerably less forceful, with a 7.0 magnitude.
Saturday’s quake was 700 to 800 times stronger, but at a greater depth — 21.7 miles — compared to the shallow 8.1-mile depth of the Haiti quake, which contributed to much of the damage there.
Coastal Chile has a history of deadly earthquakes, with 13 quakes of magnitude 7.0 or higher since 1973, the U.S. Geological Survey said. As a result, experts said that newer buildings are constructed to help withstand the shocks.
Still, the damage from Chile’s earthquake was widespread. A 15-story high rise near the southern city of Concepcion collapsed; the country’s major north-south highway was severed at multiple points; and the capital city’s airport was closed after its terminal sustained major damage.
Chilean President Michelle Bachelet announced that all public events would be canceled for the next 72 hours and that the start of the the school year — originally scheduled for Monday — would be delayed until March 8.
“The forces of nature have hurt our country greatly,” Bachelet said in a nationally televised message Saturday night. “We are now having to face adversity and stand again.”
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