I awakened when dreamland gave way beneath
A blind column of ash tottered into the middle
of the night,
and I ask you: am I dead?
Hold my hand in this rupture of the planet
while the scar of the purple sky becomes a star.
Ah!, but I remember, where are they? Where are they?
Why does the earth boil, gorging on death?
Earthquake, from Canto General by Pablo Neruda.
When Pablo Neruda published this work in his tenth collection of poems, the most powerful earthquake ever recorded was still a decade away. On May 22, 1960 a 9.5-magnitude quake hit the coast of southern Chile, followed by a tsunami with waves over 80 feet tall.
On Sunday Chileans marked the first anniversary of another earthquake on February 27, 2010, not as catastrophic as the 1960 disaster but still severe enough to rank among the top five earthquakes since 1900. It measured 8.8 on the Richter scale, followed by a tsunami that left 524 dead, another 31 missing and hundreds of thousands homeless and caused an estimated $30 billion in damage.
Last week the Pinera government published a report on reconstruction http://www.gob.cl/especiales/balance-de-reconstruccion-a-un-ano-del-terremoto/. And the aftershocks keep coming, with two tremors measuring 6.0 and 5.1 hitting southern Chile on Sunday. Two weeks earlier a 6.8 tremor struck, prompting authorities to issue a tsunami alert and evacuate around 5,000 people from beaches.