Appeal for donations for the victims of Chile's earthquake and tsunami

Appeal for help for those affected by the Feb 27 Chilean Earthquake(s) and Tsunami

As usual with Chile's Earthquakes, it took days to get a global picture of the damage caused and the number of people affected. Therefore, I have waited a while to have a better picture of the situation before launching this appeal.

The needs are many and help is needed and welcome. The best possible channel to donate is through international agencies which have the expertise to handle large scale efforts, so I kindly ask you that if you feel like donating anything check here where to make your donations

I refuse to include "high impact images" in this appeal. The international press has done a good job at it. Good reviews exist in the BBC and other news sites and videos have been uploaded to YouTube. I will limit myself to presenting you with the facts (as known now)... you may try to imagine what it was like to be there...

  • At 03:34 (local time) on February 27, 2010 an 8.8 magnitude (Richter) earthquake occurred 30 km from Chile's central coast as shown in the map and lasted more than 90 seconds
  • The Earthquake was felt hundreds of kilometers away
  • The first news to the world was way too optimistic. As designed, some areas of Santiago recovered the electricity supply and internet connections very quickly; this allowed the government to start operating under normal conditions as quickly as possible, giving the false impression to those abroad that the situation was normal... far from reality.
  • The estimated magnitudes (Richter) in the most populated areas are: 
    • Concepcion 8.3
    • Santiago 7.9
    • Valparaiso 7.5
    • Cities between Santiago and the epicenter, experienced a shake stronger than 7.9
  • As a reference, the last "big one" of 1985 measured 7.2 at its epicenter was located about 200 km north of Santiago.
  • A tsunami followed straight after the quake and wide areas of the coastline were affected by 10-15m high waves, which in some cases swept inland for several hundreds of metres, affecting cities, towns and villages. People in those areas lost everything. What was not destroyed by the earthquake was swept away by the tsunami.
  • The towns in the island of Juan Fernandez (between the continent and Easter Island) were literally destroyed.
  • The fact that Chile sits on a highly seismic area and that its population has learned from previous experience has kept the death toll at around 500 (as of March 6), but the number of people whose houses were left useless or severely damaged will likely surpass 2 million.

  • The following image illustrates the intensity in the Mercalli scale

  • An earthquake of this magnitude rarely arrives alone. As plates settle, aftershocks can occur months after the main event.
  • The maps below were captured on March 3, 2010 directly from the United States Geological Survey information servers. Note the large aftershock on the right hand side.

  • Hundreds of aftershocks have occurred since the main event.
  • Some aftershocks have been as strong as 6.6
  • Chile's modern construction is anti-seismic, but probably designed to withstand earthquakes up to 8.2
  • Older buildings or buildings built by private construction firms are not that strong.
  • What usually happens is that the main quake damages and weakens buildings, and the aftershocks keep adding to the damage.
  • Consequently, a significant number of buildings in the area within 200 km from the epicenter were damaged beyond repair
  • If the buildings resulted unscathed, the strength of the shaking destroyed everything from china to electronics items and anyone living above the 5th floor felt like they were inside a cocktail maker!
  • Santiago and Valparaiso (cities 1 and 3 in terms of population, also experienced extended structural damage to their buildings, leaving people sleeping in the street
  • In the most affected areas, hospitals collapsed and in those which did not collapse, valuable instruments were destroyed.
  • Cities like Constitucion and Talcahuano were first devastated by the earthquake and then hit by very high waves, the damage there is overwhelming.
  • Unlike "First World" countries, 98% of the Chilean population has no insurance at all covering their properties or belongings. Starting over will be extremely hard.
  • If this earthquake had occurred in the Los Angeles (Ca) area (St Andreas fault), it would be called "The big one"

The reason to appeal for your help is that the number of people who has lost everything is very high.
Spending the night outside is quite common in situations like this, as either houses were flattened or inhabitants are just too afraid to go back inside. The psychological toll on those who experience a disaster is quite high. But nights in Chile, as summer ends are chilly: 10C and below are not uncommon. Health issues are a concern as surely medications and medical supplies will be short.

 To make a donation, please see where to make a donation.

With my thanks and those of the thousands of people who are experiencing these very difficult times,

Patricio F. Ortiz

Dr. Patricio F. Ortiz         
GAIA Project
Department of Physics & Astronomy
University of Leicester
Leicester, LE1 7RH, UK