Chile trembles under the pressure

At 3:34 local time on Feb. 27, an 8.8 magnitude earthquake hit Chile. In the chaos that followed, cars lay overturned in the streets and few survivors were found amidst the building rubble. Today, the newly homeless of Chile inhabit the streets.

That day, nearby countries also felt tremors during the three-minute-long earthquake. To make matters worse, a tsunami arrived in the coastal central region soon after the earthquake subsided.

Plate tectonics are something Chileans know quite well. In 1960, Chile experienced the most powerful earthquake ever recorded. Due to the country’s frequent experiences with earthquakes, Chile considered itself well prepared for such an event. Furthermore, the structural stability of Chilean buildings and other similar factors suggested that Chile was in a satisfactory position to handle a natural disaster comparable to the Haitian earthquake of January 2010.

Despite their preparedness, over 802 people were killed and more than 1.5 million have been displaced from their homes in this latest disaster.

Currently, Chile is experiencing a change in leadership. President Michelle Bachelet leads the left-leaning government that was in power when the earthquake struck. Bachelet initially denied the need for aid from other countries and her first response was to deploy aid only via the military. However, once the aftermath of the earthquake became apparent, countries like Pakistan were quick to lend a hand.

President-elect Sebastian Pinera is the face of hope for many who experienced the effects of the earthquake. He has already provided his chosen governors with instructions related to dealing with the aftermath of the disaster. The current process of transitioning from Bachelet’s government to Pinera’s leaves Chile in a unique position.

This is because Bachelet must work with Pinera’s future government in order to continue the transition. At the same time, the parties must also work together to effectively provide aid to those suffering from the effects of the disaster.

Compared to other Latin American countries, Chile has significant income inequalities. Depending on how the government responds to those affected by the earthquake, the gap between the poor and more fortunate may increase.

While strict building codes may have saved many Chileans from fatality, the earthquake has been classified as the fifth largest since 1990. Regardless, the uniqueness of this disaster stems from the earthquake’s birth of a tsunami, which threatened several coastal countries – including Japan and Hawaii, transforming this relatively localized event into a global concern.

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