Chile 2010 earthquake recovery “advancing steadily”, says President

The government has set March 11, 2014 as the final date for completing all reconstruction efforts in affected regions.

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Less than two weeks before the anniversary of 2010’s devastating earthquake on Feb. 27, President Sebastián Piñera announced that repairs to infrastructure and health care were making clear advances toward completion.

Spanish-language news agency EFE reports President Piñera saying, “the reconstruction is advancing steadily, and in this we have made significant advances and achievements.” Though the President acknowledges that much remains to be done in the coming years—especially in repairs to educational and residential facilities—he affirms that March 11, 2014 will serve as the official cut off date for completing all reconstruction work.

The President’s announcement came shortly before Chile demonstrated its resilience once more as a series of smaller but significant tremors struck just off the country’s central coast this weekend. Beginning with a 6.9 magnitude earthquake just after 5pm on Friday Feb. 11th and followed by a series of aftershocks throughout the weekend, there have been no reported casualties and very minimal damage.

Meanwhile, the reconstruction accomplished to date from the massive 2010 earthquake is impressive in itself. The world’s fifth most powerful earthquake ever recorded, it reached 8.8 on the Richter scale and effected nearly 13 million people in six regions in the center and south of Chile—roughly 75 percent of the total national population. The overall damages done have been estimated at US$30 billion, which totals about 18 percent of Chile’s annual GDP.

Other statistics are no less jarring. Some 75 percent of Chile’s entire hospital network was damaged, with 73 individual hospitals and well over 4,000 beds lost. A year later, most of the bed space has been recovered, 90 percent of the damaged equipment is fully functional, 14 of 19 emergency hospitals are again operational, and of the 17 hospitals rendered completely unusable, 94 percent are now once again in use.

Facilities in the education sectors of the worst affected regions were also critically damaged. The 3,700 damaged schools affected 1.25 million students just before the start of the Chilean school year in March. Nevertheless, within 45 days, all of the displaced students were placed in schools, specially accommodating those in need.

Repairs to educational institutions have moved somewhat slower, but already 70 percent of the damaged institutions have received funds for repair and reconstruction, though not all plans or restoration have yet been implemented.

The most impressive advances—and the most essential for the efficiency of further reconstruction efforts—have been in repairs to infrastructure. Among the major infrastructure systems damaged were 965 miles (1554 km) of roads, 748 sources of potable water, 212 bridges, 28 fishing coves and 9 airports and aerodromes. In only 12 months, 99 percent of this infrastructure has been repaired and is now functional.

With the repairs nearing completion on infrastructure and health systems, municipalities and the federal government can now begin to refocus their efforts on restoring damaged and lost educational and residential facilities, thus restoring life to normal.