March 05, 2010

Fuerza Chile

March 4, 2010
If  you looked out at the city from my apartment this morning, you would have no idea that an 8.8 earthquake hit just 5 short days ago.  A brand new office building is not only still standing, but its 12 story sign advertising office space for rent has not moved an inch.  Even buildings under construction still have their tower cranes right beside them.

newly constructed building still in tact after the 8.8 earthquake
photo taken March 4, 2010

As we were awoken at 3:30am to movement that was indescribable, we stood in silence, eyes darting, waiting, as the quake came and went lasting a rather long 3 minutes.  Hairpin cracks cover the ceilings of our apartments.  Plaster from crown molding litters our floors.  Diagonal gashes are left behind on our walls like battle scars.  However, all things considered we basically walked away without any major damage,  but many others were not as fortunate.  Their pictures and stories are seen on every news channel and diarios, and our hearts break for them.  The aftershocks continue with the count nearing 200.  They are a physical reminder of what came our way early Saturday morning.  The creaking of our wooden front doors and the groaning of the building are noises we will never forget.

Chile's earthquakes are well documented in the history books.  The massive 1960 quake near the town of Valdivia registered 9.5 on the Richter Scale.  It is the largest earthquake ever to be recorded.
In the midst of various setbacks the Chilean people have worked hard to become a strong and prosperous nation.  They cheered in unison as their country qualified for the World Cup, they push forward updating and advancing their transportation system, and this coming September 18th Chile with celebrate their bicentennial after much anticipation and planning.  Therefore, it is no surprise after the recent devastation to see this country uniting.  Proudly displaying her flag of red, white, and blue, the towering and recently completed Titanium Building is a symbol of what Chile is feeling,  strength in unity, in the streets all are saying Fuerza Chile!

Memories like the 1960 quake do not escape the minds of Chileans, rather they have played a part in shaping this country I live in.  Because of this Chile has visibly taken great care in protecting their people.  They have created some of the best seismic design codes in the world particularly focusing on creating construction practices unique to each of its 15 regions. During this recent earthquake some buildings have failed, but most have remained - towering tall and strong.  There is debate rising why some have crumbled, a few reasons come to mind - a handful were old buildings that collapsed because of their age, and a few newer buildings failed potentially due to contractors cutting corners,  faulty construction/materials,  or a developer's concern about the bottom line.  Both the design and code process here in Chile is very thorough and this understanding of the importance of quality construction design can be seen here with the strong columns weak beams system.

Image:  BBC News

While not directly connected, it is worth noting that prominently featured at the entrance to most Chilean buildings is the name of the architect.  Who would want to walk by their building in shambles and find their name lying on the ground.  But that is for another day, another post...

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