Earthquakes In Haiti and Chile Beg The Question: Can We Mitigate Against Natural Disasters?

Click Image (Google Earth)

This morning (EST) the world was again startled by the news that Chile was rocked by an earthquake which according to reports was measured at 8.8 on the Richter Scale (a top 10 earthquake). To be expected in the period immediately after the earthquake there is a lot of confusion as the world try to paint a picture of the damage which the earthquake has caused. Countries in the Pacific Rim are on tsunami alert which is expected in the post-earthquake period.

Our prayers extend to all affected by this calamity.

Up to the time of posting this blog 147 people have been reported dead and unknown numbers remain buried under collapsed structures. The epicentre is being reported as 320 km from the capital Santiago which is reported to have a population of over 5 millions or a third of Chile’s population. Reports however suggest that the older cities bordering Santiago with older buildings have been affected more that the newer city of Santiago. Chile is a country use to earthquakes.

We are reminded that it is approaching two months since the devastating earthquake which rocked Port-au-Prince. In the Caribbean we are still trying to effectively mobilize a local relief effort and to move to the stage of having a conversation about reconstruction. Some BU family members have suggested the time has come to take decisions in Haiti which will be transformational.  For too long Haiti, a proud Black country has had to endure unforgivable suffering.

As the Caribbean prepare to confront the next hurricane season, the question about what can we do to mitigate the damage to property and threat to life and limb looms large. If Barbadians are to judge by the way we responded in 2007 when there was a mild tremor, or the flooding which has seasonally shut the country down, there is reason for concern.

What is clear is the changing climatic conditions affecting the world, the Caribbean included. A drive on the West coast of Barbados in recent weeks raises alarms at the strong waves which have been battering our shoreline.


  • Amazing how technology is being used to communicate about the earthquake and tsunami affecting Hawaii.


  • At this point i say any country is fair game .The damage to the earth plates
    may be more widespread that we think


  • @ac….

    What do you mean when you say the damage to the earth plates?


  • @Technician
    Iam reference my comments to the tetonicplates.
    However you can google http://www.sesmic
    activity .com and link IRISseismicmonitor for lots of info.


  • Earthquakes have always been with us.
    The difference today is that even with all the technology man has developed, he has not yet found a way to prevent the bigger and better buildings he builds, from killing him when they collapse.

    It was a bit difficult to be crushed by a collapsing grass hut in earlier times.


  • Is Judy Thomas still head of CERO?


  • Mock Man ”It was a bit difficult to be crushed by a collapsing grass hut in earlier times.”

    Possibly one of the most profound things written on this topic, in more ways than one.


  • I hope our Ministers are noting the comments of experts on the different rates of casualties Haiti/Chile: apart from types of soil, nearness of epicentre to concentrations of populations, differences in depth of earthquake, all authorities emphasize the complete lack of building codes in Haiti, while Chile’s codes are advanced, and ENFORCED!. What are they waiting for? What can we, the public, do to let them know that we are entitled to have that extra margin of protection?


  • Another link from Mullins Bay blog showing coastal erosion which needs to become a priory.


  • A quiet note:

    Before we say too much on quakes and buildings etc, I suggest that we read first here and <A href = ""here for key references by the Auroville Earth Institute (India) and Bilham (U of Colorado), respectively.

    (Key lesson: earthquakes have the potential to kill up to about a million in some city in the decades ahead [on Bilham’s projection from the pattern of events and casualties], but with modest changes based on a century of scientifically informed knowledge on the topic, to make buildings quake resistant, much of that could be averted. But, as usual . . . )

    So, will we as a region decide to address the management of the disaster cycle cogently, on the portfolio of natural disasters that on history we know threatens our region?

    Just to refresh our minds:


    I] Preparation: Pre-disaster (a) research and hazard/ risk assessment, leading to (b) strategic and operational planning, organisation, training, “resourcing,” public awareness and education, towards (c) capacity building and (d) mitigation/risk reduction, and/or prevention (or adaptation);

    II] Disaster, proper: The disaster event or situation, with associated dislocation and destruction, requiring: largely reactive crisis-style management of the chaos [based on prior preparedness, mobilisation and prompt, effective and accurate communication, command and control systems], and deployment of resources for search, rescue, evacuation and care of casualties (and recovery of victims);

    III] Stabilisation: The rescue and/or recovery of casualties/victims, triage and treatment (or onward evacuation), damage assessment (thus, response), and overall return to relative normalcy, as management moves to a more pro-active posture; and,

    IV] Onward Rebuilding and Redevelopment: Long-term, strategically focussed rebuilding and redevelopment, tied to lessons learned, improved capacity and also leading to the start of the next management cycle (towards more adequate preparation for managing future disasters).

    Especially, as the preparatory stage in which mitigation or adaptation measures are taken, often dominates over all others?

    Let us remember the portfolio of typical bio-physical threats to the region:

    1] Tectonic-seismic: earthquakes and volcanoes (now holding a sad pride of place as the no 1 and no 2 most deadly disasters in our region: PAP, 2010, and St Pierre Martinique, 1902)

    2] Associated tsunamis (tidal waves) [These two tie pretty directly into building standards and land use zoning; e.g. there is no way that Portmore, Jamaica, should be where it is. BTW, IIRC, as of last count, the over decade long effort to create a tsunami warning network was still under development. Mr Collymore over at CDERA — give him my greetings — will be able to fill us in.]

    3] Hurricanes and tropical storms

    4] Floods, droughts and landslides (both of these are projected to be possibly more intense in the decades ahead, whether on cyclical patterns or long term climate trends, and whether natural or anthropogenic is a matter for debates . . . but the reality of the threat and our need to mitigate where we can and adapt in any case is plain)

    5] Epidemics and similarly widespread diseases, including not only headlined diseases such as AIDS but the old standby tropicals [good old malaria could rise again, as could tuberculosis, etc etc] and the environmentally or socially created vulnerability ones such as cancers and diabetes etc. (we gotta address serious public health issues)

    The challenge is to be wise and prudent in advance.



  • PS: oops, Dr Bilham, here.


  • Earthquake Exegesis (from the Greek ἐξηγεῖσθαι ‘to lead out’)

    Acts 16:22-24 Then the multitude rose up together against them; and the magistrates tore off their clothes and commanded them to be beaten with rods. And when they had laid many stripes on
    them, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to keep them securely. Having received such a charge, he put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

    This is a picture of what the enemy does to us. He strips us of our finances and our dignity and beats us up and puts us in bondage. He gets us to the point where we are all bound up, condemning ourselves, thinking we are losers, keeping us captive to strongholds.

    Acts 16:25-26 But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.

    BUT AT THE MIDNIGHT HOUR, when things look the darkest, the hour of our revelation, when we are able to realize who we serve and stand up victoriously and understand who we are in Christ, we start singing praises to God. Praise is warfare. In the Bible we see Jehosephat sending the singers and musicians out first. Praise is a powerful force against the enemy. Something happens when we praise God, especially when we are going through a really tough time. It confuses the enemy. When we are able to praise Him no matter what the circumstance, He tears down the walls of the prison built up all around us. And at the right time, at the midnight hour, the walls come tumbling down. When the enemy has you oppressed at the midnight hour, start lifting up the name of the Lord! He shows up, and He frees us from bondage. And who the Son sets free is free indeed! Our shoulders are not big enough to carry the burdens of this world. Jesus tells us to cast our cares upon Him because He cares for us. When we are yoked up to the one that is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, we can be set free from every bondage and every shackle of the enemy. Praise God no matter how you feel. He is worthy of praise no matter what the circumstances. God responds to the praises of His people.


  • Pingback: Global Voices Online » Barbados, Haiti: Being Prepared

  • The Chile earthquake definitely makes a case for building seismic resistant houses.


  • David:

    A three minute shake-up.

    Must have been like an eternity.



  • @ kiki permalink 2010 March 1

    And I say amen to this, kiki!


  • Looks like Crusoe is correct. The earth’s plates seem to be very upset at this time. A very volatile situation. Although reassuring that the Caribbean is not likely to be ever hit by a 8.8 earthquake, who knows!


  • Q: Can we mitigate against natural disasters.
    A: Yes.


  • There is a big void missing in the leadership of Haiti. After the devasting earthquake much was promised but little delivered. Now Haiti is being dealt another sickening blow with the outbreak of cholera. Doesn’t any body care. God help Haiti!


  • Let us face it, if this was Puerto Rico or some predominantly White country, we would have the world media barreling down on this matter. It is a matter of record that a small percentage of the aid pledged/given post the earthquake is yet* to make its way to the streets/people of Haiti. Yet there is silence.

    Hate to place the race card but that’s the way we see it. What other explanation is there?


  • Yahoo News has video and news stories on the plight of the Haitian people. Maybe David can download them on BU. Outsiders need to know and see the horendeous conditions that these people are still being subjected to. This is beyond criminal!


  • The Yahoo Page where a video of the challenges in Haiti can be viewed HERE.


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