Imagine you’re going to work like any other day. All of a sudden the ground starts to shake. The buildings around you start to sway. And you realize what is happening: earthquake!
An earthquake is a type of natural disaster caused by the shifting of underground rock. It cannot be predicted, and can cause a little or a lot of damage in just a few seconds. For a brief look at the destructive power of quakes, let’s rewind to 1960 in Chile, when the worst recorded earthquake in history occurred.
On Saturday, May 21, 1960, Chileans were preparing for the traditional commemoration of the Battle of Iquique, a naval battle against Peru back in the 19th century. Suddenly around 6 a.m., the earth began to rapidly shake in the town of Concepción. After just a few minutes, 125 people had died from the 8.3 magnitude earthquake. A third of the city was ruined, and as emergency responders tried to help, the massive aftershocks of the earthquake began, the strongest having a magnitude of 7.9 the next day.
But the worst was yet to come. Just minutes later, the next aftershock resulted in two separate 8.6 magnitude events. This triggered a massive tsunami washing away villages and resulting in landslides that completely destroyed towns. The earthquake in Chile was calculated with a moment magnitude of 9.5, making it the largest earthquake ever documented. In all, more than 1,500 people perished, thousands more were injured and millions were left homeless.
Today, Chile has a national strategy for preparing for earthquakes. The nation has an advanced alert system that can inform citizens through television, radio, email, phones and digital roadside billboards. They even have evacuation routes marked to help citizens if one strikes.
Chile and other places prone to earthquakes have taken huge steps to prepare and respond. Japan, for example, has reconstructed buildings according to seismic calculations and installed sensors that monitor seismic activity 24/7. In Indonesia, educating the public about basic survival and emergency response has helped them be better prepared for when disaster strikes.
If an earthquake happens in your area, stay calm and make sure you’re prepared with these tips from APHA:
• Have an emergency plan and a place to meet up with your family.
• Have an emergency stockpile and first-aid kit.
• If you’re inside, drop to the ground, cover yourself with something sturdy like a piece of furniture, and hold on until the earthquake ends.
• After the earthquake, double-check that buildings are safe to enter and listen to the news for updates.
We’ve come far in how we deal with earthquakes and although the earth might shake sometimes, let’s do our part to help ensure history doesn’t repeat itself.