Understanding Seismic Events: Chile Quake Rocks Richter Scale But Is Less Lethal than Haiti’s1 min read
Sadly, our recent post on earthquake-threatened cities was a timely introduction to the risks residents and visitors run when inhabiting destinations situated above enormous seismic stress. Now scientists reviewing the reports from Chile are drawing comparisons to Haiti that give further insight into the variables that affect whether quake fatalities reach the hundreds, thousands or hundreds of thousands.
Santiago, Chile did not make the list of most threatened cities because of its distance from the primary fault line and the building codes that have been enforced in recent years. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet said things could have been a lot worse than the present catastrophe if not for the country’s building standards.
At 8.8 on the Richter scale, the Chile quake released 500 times more energy at the epicenter than the Haiti event, but energy dissipates rapidly as distance from the epicenter grows. Saturday’s quake was centered an estimated 21 miles underground in a relatively unpopulated area, while Haiti’s struck about 8 miles down and right on the edge of Port-au-Prince. Furthermore, the ground beneath Port-au-Prince is less stable and “shakes like jelly,” says University of Miami geologist Tim Dixon. The U.S. Geological Survey reports that Port au Prince experienced “violent” to “extreme” shaking, while Chileans experience no more than “severe” shaking. Nevertheless, the latest news reports indicate 500,000 homes have been damaged and two million people displaced.
Plate tectonics is a dismal science when millions of lives are literally shaken.