Earthquake reconstruction and its discontents

Still more seismic activity in Chile: an early morning 5.5 earthquake in the same southern areas affected by last year’s quake.  A 5.5 on the Richter scale “can cause major damage to poorly constructed buildings over small regions” and at most “slight damage to well-designed buildings.”

Last June the government appointed a commission to examine the country’s construction codes and to find ways to make future buildings more earthquake-proof. According to a report by a Chilean online investigative journalism group, the Centro de Investigacion Periodistica (CIPER), commission took only two months to come up with a list of recommendations, including more exacting requirements for soil and reinforced concrete. The housing ministry took the recommendations and wrote them up in the form of two decrees, which were sent to President Sebastian Pinera for final approval and publication in the official Gazeta Oficial.

But the decrees were not signed and published until last month, which allowed countless new building projects to commence without the new safety standards. Some commission members believe that lobbying by two private companies caused the delay. A member of the Chilean congressional housing committee observed that it would have been better if authorities did an “autopsy” on buildings damaged during the earthquake and incorporate those findings into any new building codes.

Meanwhile, Chile’s planning and housing ministries have released a report the social and economic effects of last year’s earthquake. Among the findings:

–The number of Chileans living in poverty increased by three percent, to 19.4 percent of the population.

–Among those Chileans living in affected areas, 12 percent are suffering post-traumatic stress, with higher levels among women and the poor.

The Santiago Times recently published the following article by a Yale researcher on the continuing suffering by earthquake victims:

And here’s another article on Chile’s nuclear energy plans and the obvious question of whether an earthquake-prone country should even consider building nuclear power stations:

This entry was posted in Chile.

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