February 27, 2010 [LINK / comment]
For the second time in as many months, a strong earthquake has struck near the capital city of a country in Latin America. This time it is Chile, on the west coast of South America. Once again, it will take days or even weeks before we have a good idea of how many people have perished. Early reports say that at least 122 people have died, but the total will certainly climb into the thousands. The earthquake that occurred during the overnight hours hit the central region of Chile, where most of the people live. Dozens of aftershocks have been reported, some located in Argentina, on the other side of the Andes Mountains. What little we know thus far has come through video reports via CNN and other news networks. Also see BBC.
This natural disaster comes barely six weeks after a strong earthquake killed about a quarter million people in Haiti, in mid-January. In that case, the death toll was greatly magnified due to the fact that building standards are much lower, reflecting Haiti's relative poverty, and the fact that people in Chile are better prepared for earthquakes, which occur relatively frequently.
This comes at an awkward time as Chile is about to undergo a transfer of power. Sebastian Piñera was elected president just last month and will be sworn in the middle of March. He made a statement saying that his country is able to take care of emergency responsibilities for now, but there is no doubt that Chile will need large-scale humanitarian assistance, just as Haiti needs it.
We will learn much more about this situation in the near future. For now, we can offer the people of Chile our heartfelt prayers and encouragement.