2010 Chile earthquake

For the 2015 quake, see 2015 Illapel earthquake. For other earthquakes in and about Chile during 2010, see List of earthquakes in Chile occurring in 2010.
2010 Chile earthquake

Collapsed building in Concepción.

Epicenter of the 2010 Chile earthquake
Date 27 February 2010 (2010-02-27)[1]
Origin time 03:34 CST (UTC-03:00)
Magnitude 8.8 Mw
Depth 35 kilometres (22 mi)[2] or 30.1 kilometres (19 mi)[1]
Epicenter 35°54′32″S 72°43′59″W / 35.909°S 72.733°W / -35.909; -72.733Coordinates: 35°54′32″S 72°43′59″W / 35.909°S 72.733°W / -35.909; -72.733[2] or 36°17′24″S 73°14′20″W / 36.290°S 73.239°W / -36.290; -73.239[1]
Type Megathrust
Areas affected Chile
Max. intensity MM VIII[3] or MM IX[1]
Peak acceleration 0.65 g
Tsunami Yes
Casualties 525 dead, 25 missing.[4]
Wikinews has related news: NASA scientist: Chile earthquake may have shifted Earth's axis, shortened day
The partially collapsed 21-story O'Higgins Tower, Concepción

The 2010 Chile earthquake (Spanish: Terremoto del 27F) occurred off the coast of central Chile on Saturday, 27 February at 03:34 local time (06:34 UTC), having a magnitude of 8.8 on the moment magnitude scale, with intense shaking lasting for about three minutes.[5][1][2][6] It ranks as the fifth largest earthquake ever to be recorded by a seismograph. It was felt strongly in six Chilean regions (from Valparaíso in the north to Araucanía in the south), that together make up about 80 percent of the country's population. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS) the cities experiencing the strongest shaking—VIII (Severe) on the Mercalli intensity scale (MM)—were Concepción, Arauco and Coronel. According to Chile's Seismological Service Concepción experienced the strongest shaking at MM IX (Violent).[1] The earthquake was felt in the capital Santiago at MM VII (Very strong)[3] or MM VIII.[1] Tremors were felt in many Argentine cities, including Buenos Aires, Córdoba, Mendoza and La Rioja.[7][8] Tremors were felt as far north as the city of Ica in southern Peru (approx. 2,400 km (1,500 mi) away).[9]

The earthquake triggered a tsunami which devastated several coastal towns in south-central Chile and damaged the port at Talcahuano. Tsunami warnings were issued in 53 countries,[10] and the wave caused minor damage in the San Diego area of California[11] and in the Tōhoku region of Japan, where damage to the fisheries business was estimated at ¥6.26 billion (US$66.7 million).[12] The earthquake also generated a blackout that affected 93 percent of the Chilean population and which went on for several days in some locations.[13] President Michelle Bachelet declared a "state of catastrophe" and sent military troops to take control of the most affected areas. According to official sources, 525 people lost their lives, 25 people went missing[4] and about 9% of the population in the affected regions lost their homes.[14]

On 10 March, Swiss Reinsurance Co. estimated that the Chilean quake would cost insurance companies between 4 and 7 billion dollars. The rival German-based Munich Re AG made the same estimate.[15] Earthquake's losses to the economy of Chile are estimated at US$15–30 billion.[16]


According to the USGS the epicenter of the earthquake was about 3 km (1.9 miles) off the coast of Pelluhue commune in the Maule Region. This is about 6 km (3.7 miles) west of the village of Chovellén, 15 km (9.3 miles) southwest of the town of Pelluhue and at a point approximately 100 km (62 miles) away from the following four provincial capitals: Talca (to the north-east), Linares (to the east), Chillán (to the south-east) and Concepción (to the south).[2] Chile's Seismological Service located the quake's epicenter at about 34 km (21 miles) off the coast of Ñuble Province in the Biobío Region. This is 60 km (37 miles) north of Concepción and 170 km (110 miles) south-west of Talca.[1]

Seismology and geology

Main articles: Nazca Plate and geology of Chile

The earthquake took place along the boundary between the Nazca and South American tectonic plates, at a location where they converge at a rate of eighty millimeters (about three inches) a year. This earthquake was characterized by a thrust-faulting focal mechanism, caused by the subduction of the Nazca plate beneath the South American Tectonic Plates.[2]

Chile has been at a convergent plate boundary that generates megathrust earthquakes since the Paleozoic era (500 million years ago). In historical times the Chilean coast has suffered many megathrust earthquakes along this plate boundary, including the strongest earthquake ever measured, which is the 1960 Valdivia earthquake. Most recently, the boundary ruptured in 2007 causing the 2007 Antofagasta earthquake in northern Chile.

The segment of the fault zone which ruptured in this earthquake was estimated to be over 700 km (430 mi) long with a displacement of almost 10 meters, or 120 years of accumulated plate movement.[17] It lay immediately north of the 1,000 km (620 mi) segment which ruptured in the great earthquake of 1960.[18] Preliminary measurements show that the entire South American Plate moved abruptly westward during the quake.[19] A research collaborative of Ohio State and other institutions have found, using GPS, that the earthquake shifted Santiago 11 inches (28 cm) to the west-southwest and moved Concepción at least 3 metres (10 ft) to the west. The earthquake also shifted other parts of South America from the Falkland Islands to Fortaleza, Brazil. For example, it moved Argentina's capital of Buenos Aires about one inch (2.5 cm) to the west.[20] Several cities south of Cobquecura were also raised, by up to 3 meters.[21] The maximum recorded peak ground acceleration was at Concepcion, with a value of 0.65 g (6.38 m/s2).[22]

USGS shake map of the earthquake

Compared with past earthquakes

This was the strongest earthquake affecting Chile since the magnitude 9.5 1960 Valdivia earthquake (the most energetic earthquake ever measured in the world), and it was the strongest earthquake worldwide since the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and until the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake.[23] It is tied with the 1906 Ecuador–Colombia and 1833 Sumatra earthquakes as the sixth strongest earthquake ever measured, approximately 500 times more powerful than the 7.0 Mw earthquake in Haiti one month prior in January 2010.[24]


An aftershock of 6.2 was recorded 20 minutes after the initial quake.[25][26] Two more aftershocks of magnitudes 5.4 and 5.6 followed within an hour of the initial quake.[26] The USGS said that "a large vigorous aftershock sequence can be expected from this earthquake".[2] By 6 March UTC, more than 130 aftershocks had been registered, including thirteen above magnitude 6.0.[27]

Shortly after the mainshock seismologists installed a dense network of seismometers along the whole rupture area. This network captured 20.000 aftershocks in the 6 months after the mainshock and shows a detailed picture of the structure of the Chilean margin.[28] Seismicity is focused in the depth range 25–35 km and in a deeper band of between 45 and 50 km depth. Around 10.000 aftershocks occurred in the region of two large aftershocks in the Pichilemu region.

A 6.9-magnitude offshore earthquake struck approximately 300 kilometers southwest of, and less than 90 minutes after, the initial shock; however, it is not clear if that quake is related to the main shock.[29] A separate earthquake of magnitude 6.3 occurred in Salta, Argentina, at 15:45 UTC on 27 February, at a depth of 38.2 km (23.7 mi);[30] two people were injured and one died in Salta.[31] This earthquake was followed on 1 March, at 06:32 UTC by a magnitude 4.9 aftershock.[32] Four other earthquakes above M5.0, some possible aftershocks, also occurred near the border in Argentina following the Chile earthquake; a magnitude 5.0 earthquake occurred in Mendoza on 28 February, a M5.3 earthquake in Neuquen and a M5.2 in San Juan on 2 March, and a M5.1 quake in Mendoza on 4 March.[33][34][35][36]

Another strong earthquake occurred on 4 March, at 22:39 UTC in Antofagasta in northern Chile, with a magnitude of 6.3.[37]

Minor quakes generated by the main one could be felt as far away as São Paulo, Brazil,[38] located about 3,000 km (1,900 mi) away from Concepción. Since the major earthquake, and as of 15 March, at least four to forty >M5.0 earthquakes have been recorded daily in the vicinity of the main earthquake,[39] including four above magnitude 6.0 between 3 March and 6 March.[26]

On 5 March, two aftershocks above M6.0 were reported. The first was a 6.3-magnitude off the coast of the Biobío Region. The second was near the epicenter of the original quake at 08:47 local time with a magnitude of 6.6.[40]

On 11 March, the March 2010 Chile earthquake (magnitude 6.9, treated by some as an aftershock of the February 2010 earthquake) was reported, followed quickly by further aftershocks measuring 6.7 and 6.0. The epicenter of the 6.9 quake was in Pichilemu, O'Higgins Region.[41][42]

On 15 March, two aftershocks of the February 2010 earthquake were reported, one at magnitude 6.1 at 08:08:28 local time offshore Maule,[43] and another at magnitude 6.7 with the epicenter located offshore the Biobío Region, near Cobquecura, at 23:21:58 local time.[44] This tremor was followed by two minor aftershocks, one occurring 45 minutes later, measuring M5.5. No tsunami was reported and there were no tsunami warnings issued.

On 17 March, at 14:38:37 local time, an earthquake of magnitude 5.2 was recorded in Aisén, in Southern Chile.[45] Another magnitude 5.2 earthquake was recorded in Los Lagos the next day. On 26 March, at 10:52:06 local time, a magnitude 6.2 earthquake hit the Atacama region, in Northern Chile.[46]

Wikinews has related news: 6.5 magnitude aftershock hits Bío Bío, Chile

The Biobio Region of Chile has had strong aftershocks of this earthquake. The first one was a magnitude 6.7 MW earthquake that struck off the coast of Biobío, Chile, at 23:21 on 15 March 2010 at the epicenter, at a depth of 18 kilometres (11 mi). The second earthquake struck on land in the region at 22:58 (UTC) on 2 April 2010 at 5.9 MW and at a depth of 39 km. The third struck on 10:03 (UTC) on 23 April 2010 at 6.2 MW.[47] The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said that historical data indicates that this quake will not generate a tsunami but still advised of the possibility.[48] On 3 May, at 19:09 an earthquake magnitude 6.4 MW struck off Biobío, Chile, at the epicenter, at a depth of 20 kilometres (12 mi). The epicenter was 55 kilometres (34 mi) south of Lebu.[49] On 14 July 2010, another 6.5 magnitude earthquake occurred in the area.

2011 aftershocks

On 2 January at 17:20:18 local time, a 7.1 magnitude aftershock occurred 70 kilometers northwest of Temuco, Chile.[50] On Lautaro, Cañete, Nueva Imperial, Traiguén and Carahue the quake was felt at intensity VI (strong) of the Mercalli intensity scale. In Temuco it was perceived at intensity V (moderate). In Talcahuano, Concepción, Chillán, Osorno and Valdivia it shook at intensity IV (light).[51] According to the USGS the earthquake's epicenter was located on the ground, east of the coastal town of Tirúa in the Araucanía Region. However, according to the University of Chile's Seismological Service, the seismic event was located 134 kilometers off the coast of Tirúa, measuring a magnitude 6.9 ML. The University of Chile also reported that the localities who received the strongest shaking (VI) were Curanilahue, Lebu and Tirúa. In Concepción, Talcahuano and Temuco it was felt at intensity V, and in Chillán and Valdivia at intensity IV.[52]

A magnitude 6.2 Mw aftershock struck the coast of Biobío, Chile at a shallow depth of 15.1 km (9.4 mi) on 1 June 2011 at 08:55 local time (12:55  UTC).[53] It was centered just offshore Arauco Province near a moderately populated area, with most structures in its vicinity reported to be resistant to earthquake shaking. Strong shaking registering at VI on the Mercalli intensity scale was felt in Lebu, just 7 km (4 ) south of the epicenter, lasting for approximately one minute.[54][55] Some residents in coastal areas panicked and evacuated their homes.[56] The earthquake was followed by a moderate magnitude 5.1 Mw tremor that occurred about 52 minutes later to the northeast of the main shock epicenter at an estimated depth of 26.9 km (16.7 mi).[57] Initial estimates from the USGS placed its intensity at a magnitude of 6.4 Mw.[58]

Geophysical impact

Seismologists estimate that the earthquake was so powerful that it may have shortened the length of the day by 1.26 microseconds and moved the Earth's figure axis by 2.7 milliarcseconds (about 8 cm).[59][60] Precise GPS measurement indicated the telluric movement moved the entire city of Concepción 3.04 metres (10.0 ft) to the west. The capital Santiago experienced a displacement of almost 24 centimetres (9.4 in) west, and even Buenos Aires, about 1,350 kilometres (840 mi) from Concepción,[61] shifted 4 centimetres (1.6 in).[62][63] It is estimated that Chile's territory could have expanded 1.2 km² (0.46 mi²) as a result.[64]

The earthquake also caused seiches to occur in Lake Pontchartrain to the north of New Orleans, United States, located nearly 7,500 kilometres (4,700 mi) from the epicenter of the quake.[65]

Damage and casualties

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People were found dead after the earthquake struck, mostly under buildings and inside cars. Many people were also seriously injured. Most injuries were reported in Santiago and Maule.

According to an Associated Press Television News cameraman, some buildings collapsed in Santiago and there were power outages in parts of the city.[66] A fire was reported in a chemical plant on the outskirts of Santiago and caused the evacuation of the neighborhood.[25] Santiago's International Airport seemed to have been damaged and the airport authority closed off all flight operations for 24 hours from around 12:00 UTC.[5] On Sunday, 28 February, Ricardo Ortega, head of the Chilean Air Force, said commercial airline services had been partially re-established and aircraft were being allowed to land in Santiago.[67]

Santiago's national Fine Arts Museum was badly damaged and did not reopen until 9 March 2010.[68] An apartment building's two-story parking lot collapsed, wrecking 68 cars. According to one health official, three hospitals in Santiago collapsed, and a dozen more south of the capital also suffered significant damage.[69]

In Valparaíso, a tsunami wave of 1.29 m was reported. The port of Valparaíso was ordered to be closed due to the damage caused by the earthquake. The port started to resume limited operations on 28 February.[70] In Viña del Mar, a touristic city and part of Greater Valparaíso, several buildings were structurally damaged, principally in the district Plan de Viña.[71]

Many cities in Maule region were seriously affected by the earthquake. Curanipe, only 8 km (5 mi) from the epicenter, was hit by a tsunami after the earthquake and still remained isolated from outside as of 28 February.[72] A surfer said the tsunami "...was like the one in Thailand, a sudden rise of water. One could not estimate the dimension of the wave, because it was advancing foam. There were 10 to 15 rises, the last one being at 08:30 in the morning."[73] In Talca, the capital of Maule region, many dead were trapped in the rubble. The administrative building was uninhabitable, and the authorities had to be set up in the parade ground.[74] All but two of the local hospital's thirteen wings were in ruins. Dr. Claudio Martínez was quoted as saying, "We're only keeping the people in danger of dying." Hospital staff attempted to transport some patients to Santiago on Sunday morning, but roads were blocked.[75]

Damaged buildings and fires were reported in Concepción.[76] Rescue teams had difficulty accessing Concepción because of the damaged infrastructure.[25] The fifteen-story residential building "Alto Río" fell backwards, horizontally lay on the ground, and trapped many of the residents. As the building was newly completed, 19 of the apartments were occupied and 36 were unknown if there were residents therein.[77][78][79] A 2.34 m (7.68 ft) tsunami wave hit Talcahuano, a port city and part of the Concepción conurbation. The tsunami caused serious damage to port facilities and lifted boats out of the water.[80] In the fishing town of Dichato, which has 7,000 residents, it was the third tsunami wave that ended up being the most damaging.[81]

Dilapidated buildings could be seen on the streets of Temuco, about 400 km (250 mi) from the epicenter. The adobe of some buildings fell. Façades fell in pieces and crushed cars. Two people were reported dead because of not having been able to escape from a nightclub. On 27 February, it was reported that "to find an open business is almost impossible" ("Encontrar un negocio abierto es casi imposible").[82][83]

In Chile, 370,000 homes were damaged.[84] The final death toll of 525 victims and 25 people missing was announced by authorities in January 2011.[4] This is down from early reports on 3 March of 802 people dead.[85]

The Chilean National Emergency Office (Oficina Nacional de Emergencia) estimated that the intensity of the earthquake was 9 on the Mercalli intensity scale in the Biobío Region and 8 in Santiago.[25][86] USGS put the intensity in Talcahuano at MM VIII, in Santiago and Concepción at MM VII and in Valparaíso at MM VI.[3]

On 10 March, Swiss Reinsurance Co. estimated that the Chilean quake would cost the insurance industry between 4 and 7 billion dollars. The same estimate was echoed by the rival German-based Munich Re AG.[15]

Modified Mercalli intensities for some localities

Locality Country USGS[87] SS[1] Population[87]
Angol  Chile VII 45k
Antofagasta  Chile II
Arauco  Chile VIII 25k
Buín  Chile VII 55k
Bulnes  Chile VII 13k
Cabrero  Chile VIII 18k
Calama  Chile II
Cañete  Chile VIII 20k
Carahue  Chile VI 12k
Cauquenes  Chile VIII 31k
Chiguayante  Chile VII 83k
Chillán  Chile VII 150k
Chimbarongo  Chile VII 17k
Coihueco  Chile VII 7k
Collipulli  Chile VII 16k
Concepción  Chile VIII IX 215k
Constitución  Chile VIII 38k
Copiapó  Chile III
Coquimbo  Chile V
Coronel  Chile VIII 93k
Corral  Chile V 4k
Curanilahue  Chile VIII 31k
Curicó  Chile VII 102k
Cutral-Co  Argentina V 47k
El Monte  Chile VIII 23k
Freire  Chile VII 8k
General Roca  Argentina IV 73k
Graneros  Chile VII 23k
La Calera  Chile VII 49k
Huayco  Chile III
Illapel  Chile VI 23k
Laja  Chile VII 17k
La Ligua  Chile VII 25k
La Unión  Chile VI 26k
Lampa  Chile VI 29k
Las Ánimas VI 30k
Las Gaviotas  Argentina V 2k
Lautaro  Chile VII 22k
Lebu  Chile VII 22k
Limache  Chile VII 36k
Linares  Chile VII 70k
Llaillay  Chile VI 17k
Loncoche  Chile VI 16k
Longaví  Chile VII 6k
Los Andes  Chile VII 57k
Los Ángeles  Chile VII 125k
Lota  Chile VII 50k
Machali  Chile VII 28k
Melipilla  Chile VII 63k
Mendoza  Argentina V 877k
Molina  Chile VII 29k
Mulchén  Chile VII 22k
Nacimiento  Chile VII 21k
Neuquén  Argentina IV 242k
Nueva Imperial  Chile VI 19k
Osorno  Chile VI 136k
Paine  Chile VII 33k
Panguipulli  Chile VI 16k
Parral  Chile VIII 27k
Peñaflor  Chile VII 66k
Penco  Chile VII 46k
Pitrufquen  Chile VI 14k
Puerto Montt  Chile V
Quillota  Chile VII 68k
Quilpué  Chile VII 130k
Rancagua  Chile VII VIII 213k
Rengo  Chile VII 38k
Río Bueno  Chile V 15k
Salamanca  Chile VI 13k
San Antonio  Chile VII 86k
San Bernardo  Chile VII 250k
San Carlos  Chile VII 32k
San Clemente  Chile VII 14k
San Felipe  Chile VII 59k
San Javier  Chile VII 22k
San Juan  Argentina V 447k
San Luis  Argentina V 184k
San Martín  Argentina V 83k
San Rafael  Argentina V 109k
San Vicente  Chile VII 23k
Santa Cruz  Chile VII 33k
Santiago  Chile VII VIII 4,837k
Talagante  Chile VII 52k
Talca  Chile VII VIII 197k
Talcahuano  Chile VII 253k
Temuco  Chile VII VIII 238k
Teno  Chile VII 7k
Tierra Amarilla  Chile III
Tomé  Chile VIII 47k
Traiguén  Chile VII 14k
Valdivia  Chile VI VI 133k
Valparaíso  Chile VII VI 282k
Victoria  Chile VII 25k
Vicuña  Chile III-IV
Vilcún  Chile VI 9k
Villa Alemana  Chile VII 97k
Villarrica  Chile VI 32k
Viña del Mar  Chile VII VI 295k
Yumbel  Chile VII 11k

Notes: USGS=United States Geological Survey, SS=Chile's Seismological Service.

Identified fatalities

Deaths caused by the earthquake and tsunami by region[note 1]
Region 27. February[88] 28. February[89] 1. March[90] 2. March[91] 3. March[92] 4. March[93] 5. March[94] 8. March[95]
Valparaíso 4 16 16 18 20 16 24
Metropolitana 13 36 38 38 38 21 23
O'Higgins 12 46 48 48 48 3 46
Maule 34 541 544 587 587 177 269
Biobio 10 64 64 92 92 56 120
Araucanía 5 5 13 13 14 6 15
National total 78 708 723 796 799 279 452 497

Population with destroyed or severely damaged homes

The table below shows the percentage of the regional population whose homes were destroyed or were severely damaged by the earthquake and tsunami in the six most affected regions. The data were collected between May and June 2010.

(north to south)
Percentage of
regional population
Valparaíso 7.4
Santiago 4.8
O'Higgins 12.2
Maule 20.7
Biobío 17.8
Araucanía 5.1
Total (six regions) 8.8

Source: Casen Post-Earthquake Survey, Ministry of Planning.

Humanitarian response

Despite President Michelle Bachelet's earlier statement that Chile would only ask for international aid once it had assessed the extent of the damage,[96] leaders of many countries and intergovernmental organizations, including the United Nations and European Union, responded to the earthquake and sent messages of condolence to the government and people of Chile over the loss of lives and property. Argentina, Mexico, the United States, United Kingdom, People's Republic of China, Singapore, Haiti, and Pakistan were among the countries that responded earliest following the quake.[97][98] Appeals for humanitarian aid were issued by the UK-based Oxfam, Save the Children and others.

Chilean television host Don Francisco led a telethon called Chile helps Chile with the goal of raising 15 billion pesos (about US$29 million) needed to build 30,000 emergency houses ("mediaguas"). The charity event, which ran for 24 hours in Santiago starting on Friday 5 March at 22:00, was summoned by the government and organized by several Chilean NGOs. At 23:00 on Saturday the goal was doubled, collecting 30.2 billion pesos (about US$58 million).[99]

The Chilean NGO Un Techo para Chile constructed 23,886 transitional houses for families affected by the earthquake.[100]

Conditions in the aftermath

Chaos and disorder

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Nearly half the places in the country were declared "catastrophe zones", and curfews were imposed in some areas of looting and public disorder.[101] On 28 February 2010, a day after the earthquake, some affected cities were chaotic, with extensive looting of supermarkets in Concepción. Items stolen included not only food and other necessities, but also electronic goods and other durable merchandise. To control vandalism, a special force of carabineros (police) was sent to disperse rioters with tear gas and water cannons.[102] However, measures were taken late. The outgoing president didn't want to remind people of the Dictatorship years by militarizing the streets, thus failed to provide assistance on time to the city. When the situation became unsustainable and all sectors of the population were demanding actions, the government authorized the use of the military to control the affected cities. Despite these and other government acts (including the curfews), pillaging continued in both urban and rural areas of the affected zones.[103] Reportedly, military police arrested 160 in Concepción on 1 and 2 March.[104]

Kiosks destroyed by the tsunami in Pichilemu.

In Concepción, despite the militarization of the zone, mobs continued to steal from supermarkets and went as far as to set one store ablaze.[105] The government warned looters they would face the full weight of the law, as penalties for stealing are increased under a state of catastrophe. A week after the quake the police —tipped by neighbors— arrested three people with massive quantities of looted goods stashed in their homes. Other looted goods such as mattresses, furniture, television sets and other electronic appliances were abandoned in the streets of Concepción during the following days.[106]

The damaged Museum of Fine Art

According to the BBC on 5 March, the city and fishing port of Talcahuano, which lies but a few kilometers down the coast from Concepción, has been left largely to fend for itself. Neighbourhood vigilante groups, including one led by a public works employee with a gun license, and the few police present allow such behavior as residents' siphoning fuel from tanks at a petrol station, but step in if someone starts to attack a cash machine. One man stated, "I've personally saved dozens of people from attack in this apartment block."[107]

Chileans living in regions not affected by the earthquake (including those living abroad) also grieved, as they sought to learn more regarding kinsmen and friends affected by the earthquake. In the hardest-hit zones there was no communication with the exterior because of the failure of electricity and the destruction of telephone lines.[103]

Prison escape

In the prison of El Manzano in Concepción, a prison riot began after a failed escape attempt by the inmates. Different parts of the prison were set afire and the riot was brought under control only after the guards shot into the air and received help from military units.[108]

By 1 March, prison guards in a prison in Chillán had recaptured 36 of 203 prisoners who had escaped following the earthquake. During their escape, prisoners burned seven houses close to the prison. A witness in Chillán asserted that he had been robbed by prisoners with a machine gun who had also forced his girlfriend to kiss them. Another witness alleged sexual molestation by around twenty men who were believed to be escaped prisoners. The leading Chilean newspaper El Mercurio described the situation in Chillán as reminiscent of the "Wild West".[108]

Government response

Four hours after the earthquake, when the death count was still low, President Bachelet gave a press conference in which she informed the population of the situation and stated that Chile did not yet need international aid.[96] However, about two million people were affected by the quake with more than 500,000 houses uninhabitable. In many cities, people slept in tents, in parks or simply on the streets for fear of aftershocks. The government began distributing food and other vital aid around the country.[109]

On 28 February, President Bachelet said that her government had reached an agreement with the major supermarkets which would allow them to give away basic foodstuffs in stock to people affected by the earthquake.[110] By 28 February, the Santiago Metro rapid-transit network was already partially up and running and expected to be fully operative on the following day, 1 March.[111]

On 4 March, President-elect Sebastián Piñera, who assumed office on 11 March, was quoted as saying that his goals were "to cope with the emergency needs of citizens, find people who are still missing, provide prompt and timely assistance to the sick and wounded, and restore law and order so that people can return to peace."[112]

Economic recovery

Authorities of the central port city of San Antonio speaking on 3 March 2010, stated that the port had returned to eighty percent of capacity. On the same date, Raul Maturana, a spokesman for the Federation of Port Workers' union, stated that the port of Valparaíso was operating normally. However, ports in southern Chile, which were closer to the epicenter, remained closed.[113]

On 4 March, President Bachelet said that Chile would need international loans and three to four years to rebuild.[114]

Food scarcity

On 10 March the National Commission for Agricultural emergencies (CNEA) assured that milk and wheat prices would not rise, despite fears of lack of fuel supply for transport and harvest of these products. In the same CNEA report the mill associations of central and southern Chile are said to have expressed that they had currently no production difficulties.[115] Despite this on 11 March newspaper La Segunda cited the president of the bakeries association complaining on unjustified price rises for flour, who said of cases of price rises of 10 to 20%.[116]

The earthquake affected production at the Compañía de Cervecerías Unidas (CCU) and Cervecería Chile factories that together have a 90% share of the Chilean beer market. With an average annual per capita consumption of 36 liters, scarcity caused prices to rise from 990–1500 to 2000 Chilean pesos per litre. CCU responded by increasing capacity of their plant in Temuco that did not suffer major damage during the earthquake and by importing beer from their factories in Argentina. 50 trucks with beer are reported to have reached Santiago from Argentina. In March 2010, ten CCU executives said that the country will not run out of beer and that within two to three months production levels would be normalized.[117] Liquor store owners expressed complaints regarding a beer rationing scheme implemented by CCU. The scarcity favoured consumption of "premium beers" like Kunstmann and Paceña.[118]


A tsunami warning was first declared for Chile and Peru,[119] and a tsunami watch for Ecuador, Colombia, Antarctica, Panama and Costa Rica.[120][121] The warning was later extended to a Pacific Ocean-wide warning, covering all coastal areas on the Pacific Ocean except the west coast of the United States, British Columbia, and Alaska.[122] Hawaiian media reported that tsunami warning sirens first sounded at 06:00 local time.[123] The U.S. Tsunami Warning Center issued advisories about potential tidal waves of less than 1 m (3 ft 3 in) striking the Pacific Ocean coastline between California and most of Alaska late in the afternoon or through the evening 12 or more hours after the initial earthquake.[124] Although the earthquake killed far fewer people than the Haitian earthquake less than 7 weeks prior, it was still devastating. The tsunami warning was cancelled for all countries except Japan and Russia in PTWC Bulletin 18 of 00:12 UTC on 28 February 2010.[125]

In general, tsunamis tend to come in several waves, of which the first may not be the highest.[126][127]

The U.S. National Weather Service's Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami warning throughout a huge swathe of the Pacific region, including Antarctica.[128] In the Americas, the warning extended to Chile (including Easter Island), Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, and Panama.[128] A warning was also issued for the Oceania and Pacific Islands nations and territories of American Samoa, Australia, the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia (including the FSM states of Chuuk, Kosrae, Pohnpei and Yap), Fiji, French Polynesia, Guam, Hawaii, Jarvis Island, Johnston Island, the Kermadec Islands, Kiribati, Marcus Island, the Marshall Islands, Midway Island, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niue, the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Wallis and Futuna and Wake Island.[128] Tsunami warnings were also in effect as far away as East and Southeast Asia including Japan, Indonesia, Hong Kong,[129] the Philippines, Russia and Taiwan.[128]

Coastal areas of Canada's westernmost province British Columbia was under a tsunami advisory, and this was the most alarming advisory as the earthquake occurred during the same time as the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.[130] No large wave was expected to strike British Columbia, but strong local ocean currents combined with a wave put low-lying coastal regions at risk of flooding.[130] The first wave was expected to reach southern British Columbia at 15:11 local time.[130] Residents were advised to avoid beaches, harbours and marinas.[131]

A tsunami advisory was also issued for coastal areas of California, Oregon, Washington and southern Alaska in the United States.[132] This tsunami advisory was canceled as of 07:13 UTD on 28 February.[133]

Russian authorities lifted a tsunami alert for the Kamchatka coast, after the arrival of a 0.8 m (2.6 ft) surge that caused no damage.[134] The tsunami was also reported to be small along the Japanese coast, and passed without incident. Many coastal areas in Japan had been evacuated as a precaution.[135]

The projections use DART (Deep-ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis) gauges spread along the sea floor, which is a fairly new technology. Initial deep sea readings showed wave height of 25 centimeters, which is huge for deep water, according to Gerard Fryer of the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. He went on to say, "although it was huge, we didn't quite know what it meant because we haven't much experience with those. As we get more under our belts, we'll get better."[136]


Agustín Ross balcony damaged after the earthquake and tsunami in Pichilemu.

Some 30 minutes after the first shock, consecutive tsunamis hit coastal towns, among which Constitución suffered the hardest damage;[137] subsequently, a tsunami amplitude of up to 2.6 m (8 ft 6 in) high was recorded in the sea at Valparaíso.[25][138][139] A wave amplitude of 2.34 m (7.68 ft) was recorded at Talcahuano in the Biobío Region.[140] Robinson Crusoe Island, the largest of the Juan Fernández Islands, was struck by a large wave led to the deaths of four people on the island, with eleven people reported as missing, according to Provincial Governor Ivan De La Maza. President Bachelet is reported to have sent an aid mission to the remote island.[141][142]

As a precaution against the coming tsunami, partial evacuation was ordered in Easter Island, about 3,510 km (2,180 mi) away from the coast of Chile. The tsunami wave arrived in Easter Island at 12:05 UTC, measuring 0.35 m (1.15 ft).[143][144]

On 27 February, defense minister Francisco Vidal said that the Chilean Navy had made a mistake by not immediately issuing a tsunami warning after the earthquake, a step that could have helped coastal villagers flee to higher ground sooner. However, an alarm was later sounded by port captains and saved some lives.[145] Mariano Rojas Bustos, then head of Chile's oceanographic service SHOA, which is part of the country's navy, was later fired for the organization's failure to provide clear warnings about the tsunami.[146]


New Zealand

Initially, the New Zealand Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management (CDEM) said they did not expect a tsunami to reach New Zealand,[147] but later issued a warning stating that waves of up to 1 m (3 ft 3 in) high were likely for the eastern[148] and later the entire New Zealand coast.[149] By 19:55 UTC (08:40 local), CDEM reported wave activity of 50 cm (1.6 ft) in the Chatham Islands,[150] and 2 m (6 ft 7 in) surges were reported there later in the morning.[151] A surge 2.2 m (7 ft 3 in) high hit the South Island's Banks Peninsula,[149][152] while surges up to 1 m (3 ft 3 in) high were reported in the northern North Island.[153] By mid afternoon (local time), Civil Defence had downgraded the tsunami warning to an alert, while still advising that sea levels could change quickly for up to 24 hours from the initial surge.[154]


The U.S. Antarctic Program's coastal station along the Antarctic Peninsula, Palmer Station, went on a tsunami alert shortly after the earthquake struck Chile. To prepare for a possible tsunami, station personnel removed all Zodiac boats from the water and moved any materials from low-lying areas that waves could have swept away. Personnel also retreated to the station's highest building, GWR, while the tsunami warning was in effect, Ellis said. Palmer personnel developed a tsunami emergency plan following the 2004 earthquake in the Indian Ocean that created a tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people in 14 countries. While no noticeable tsunami occurred at Palmer, the station tide monitor displayed bumps of several centimeters, signifying that a small wave had indeed reached the shores of Anvers Island.[155]


The Joint Australian Tsunami Warning Center (JATWC) sent out tsunami warnings for New South Wales, Queensland, Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island, Tasmania, and Victoria. The organization warned of the possibility of dangerous waves, strong ocean currents and foreshore flooding to occur on the east coast of Australia for several hours on Sunday.[156] As a result of the warnings, patrolled beaches in New South Wales and Queensland remained closed (red flags) and lifeguards ushered people to leave the water. However beach goers and surfers ignored the warnings. Numerous onlookers also crowded parts of the shore to view potential effects of the tsunami.[157] The beach ban was lifted by the end of the day and there was no reports of damage, flooding or other emergencies. Tsunami waves of between 10 cm and 50 cm were recorded and their surges were believed to have created strong currents. Increases in sea levels include: Norfolk Island 50 cm, Gold Coast (Qld) 20 cm, Port Kembla (NSW) 14 cm, Southport (Tas) 17 cm.[157]

French Polynesia

A wave measuring up to 1.8 m (5 ft 11 in) high struck portions of French Polynesia between 15:50 to 17:50 UTC with no reports of injuries as of February 28, 2010.[158] A wave 4 meters high is reported to have struck Hiva Oa in the Marquesas Islands.[159] The first waves were expected to hit the main island of Tahiti at approximately 16:50 UTC (07:50 local).[160] Cars and other automobiles were banned from roads closer than 500 m (1,600 ft) from the Pacific Ocean.[160]

Réseau France Outre-mer in Papeete reported that a wave measuring less than 1 m (3 ft 3 in) passed east of the Gambier Islands with no damage, according to Monique Richeton, the mayor of Rikitea.[158][160] Residents of the Tuamotus, which are low-lying, were told to move to the highest points on the island.[160]

American Samoa

The first wave was expected to reach American Samoa, which is still recovering from the 2009 Samoa earthquake and tsunami, at 08:51 local time.[160] Lieutenant Governor Ipulasi Aitofele Sunia urged residents not to rush to A'oloau, a high elevation area on Tutuila, as it could cause traffic jams, putting safety at risk.[160] Many coastal towns, including the main city of Pago Pago, had already been heavily damaged in the 2009 tsunami. The first wave arrived on Pago Plaza at 21:58 UTC.


The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) issued an advisory that tsunami wave(s) were expected to hit the eastern coast of the Philippines on Sunday between 05:00 and 06:30 UTC (13:00 and 14:30 local). Residents of 19 eastern provinces "are advised to prepare for possible evacuation."[161] However, at 15:15 on 28 February 2010, all warnings have been cancelled.[162]


United States Senators Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka issued a joint press release announcing the first tsunami evacuation in Hawaii since 1994.[163][164] Warning sirens were sounded throughout the state, as hotels in Waikiki evacuated tourists at 6 a.m. People in tall buildings were encouraged to move above the third floor. Waves measuring 2.7 metres high were originally predicted to strike Hilo Bay on the Big Island of Hawai'i at 11:05 local time (21:05 GMT),[165] but by 11:18, major receding and waves had not been reported on the shoreline. By 11:40, several waves hit the islands amounting to raising and lowering of the sea near the coast, and a fourth wave hit around 13:12. The tsunami warning for Hawaii was canceled in the early afternoon on Saturday, 27 February.

Gerard Fryer, a geophysicist for the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center was quoted as saying: “We expected the waves to be bigger in Hawaii, maybe about 50 percent bigger than they actually were."[166] Early in the morning, the Center expected waves of 3 metres. In actuality, the highest tsunami waves ended up being about 1.5 to 1.8 metres peak to trough.[136]

North America

British Columbia

At around 23:00 UTC (15:00 local), a tsunami warning was issued for coastal British Columbia. Extra precautions were already in place due to the 2010 Winter Olympics being held in Vancouver at the time.[167]


Small waves were expected in Southern California, and receding was reported at Long Beach. Minor damage was reported on some coastal areas. The tsunami damaged navigation buoys at Ventura.[168] Additionally, a boat was torn loose from its mooring and minor erosion occurred within Ventura Harbor. Damage to docks and pilings in the area was moderate.[169]


In Guerrero, surges of between 30 cm and 1 meter and receding of up to 10 m were reported, and three small vessels were sunk at Tecpán de Galeana. The state tourism authorities announced they would be sending a letter to the CNN news network to protest the "alarming" way in which it had forecast a tsunami for the major tourist destination of Acapulco.[170]

Tsunami-related aid given

Argentina has sent construction teams to Chiloé Island to help reconstruct some of the washed away coastal buildings. In July 2010, the government of Argentina released a statement that they would lend $300 million to Chile for reconstruction efforts using Argentine goods.[171]


The following data, published by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center and the National Tsunami Warning Center, lists measured and reported values of the tsunami when it arrived at specific places. Some data is taken from the Chilean Army.

Tsunami arrival data[140][172][173]
Station Country or territory Latitude Longitude Time (UTC) Height (m) Height (ft)
Pichilemu  Chile 34.23 S 72.0 W 06:48 3.02 10.0
Talcahuano  Chile 36.9 S 75.4 W 06:53 2.34 7.7
Valparaíso  Chile 33 S 71.6 W 07:08 1.29 4.2
Corral  Chile 39.9 S 73.4 W 07:39 0.90 2.9
San Felix  Chile 26.3 S 80.1 W 08:15 0.53 1.7
Caldera  Chile 27.1 S 70.8 W 08:34 0.45 1.5
Ancud  Chile 41.9 S 73.8 W 08:38 0.62 2.0
Coquimbo  Chile 30 S 71.3 W 08:52 1.32 4.3
Iquique  Chile 20.2 S 70.1 W 09:07 0.28 0.9
DART Lima  Peru 18 S 86.4 W 09:41 0.24 0.8
Antofagasta  Chile 23.2 S 70.4 W 09:41 0.49 1.6
Arica  Chile 18.5 S 70.3 W 10:08 0.94 3.1
Callao  Peru 12.1 S 77.2 W 10:29 0.36 1.2
Easter Island  Chile 27.2 S 109.5 W 12:05 0.35 1.1
Quepos  Costa Rica 9.45 N 84.15 W 14:16 0.24 0.8
Galapagos Islands  Ecuador 0.4 S 90.3 W 14:52 0.35 1.2
DART Marquesas Islands  French Polynesia 8.5 S 125 W 15:31 0.18 0.6
Rikitea  French Polynesia 23.1 S 134.9 W 15:59 0.15 0.5
DART Manzanillo 16.0 N 107 W 16:11 0.07 0.2
Manzanillo  Mexico 19.1 N 104.3 W 17:05 0.32 1.0
Hiva Oa  French Polynesia 9.8 S 139.0 W 17:41 1.79 5.9
Nuku Hiva  French Polynesia 8.9 S 140.1 W 17:45 0.95 3.1
Papeete  French Polynesia 17.5 N 149.6 W 18:10 0.16 0.5
Cabo San Lucas  Mexico 22.9 N 109.9 W 18:33 0.36 1.2
Rarotonga  Cook Islands 21.2 S 159.8 W 19:07 0.15 0.5
Acapulco  Mexico 16.8 N 99.9 W 19:31 0.62 2.0
DART San Diego 32.2 N120.7 W19:310.060.2
Lottin Point  New Zealand 37.6 S 178.2 E 19:34 0.15 0.5
DART Tonga 23 S 168.1 W 20:03 0.04 0.1
Apia  Samoa 13.8 S 171.8 W 20:18 0.13 0.4
Nukualofa Tonga21.1 S175.2 W20:240.10.3
Pago Pago American Samoa14.3 S170.7 W20:27 0.220.7
Monterey, California United States36.6 N121.9 W20:31 0.281.1
San Diego, California United States32.7 N117.2 W20:360.130.4
San Francisco, California United States37.8 N122.5 W21:200.260.8
Hilo, Hawaii United States19.7 N154.9 W21:200.862.8
Kuamalapau, Hawaii United States20.8 N156.9 W21:360.180.6
Kahului, Hawaii United States20.9 N156.5 W21:470.983.2
Santa Barbara, California United States34.4 N119.7 W21:500.531.7
Barber's Point, Hawaii United States21.3 N158.1 W21:570.120.4
Honolulu, Hawaii United States21.3 N150.4 W22:000.250.8
Kawaihae, Hawaii United States20 N155.5 W22:110.521.7
Crescent City, California United States41.7 N124.2 W22:130.371.2
Vanuatu Vanuatu17.8 S168.3 E22:460.150.5
Johnston Atoll United States16.7 N169.5 W22:480.220.7
Nawiliwili, Hawaii United States22 N159.4 W23:230.371.2
Sitka, Alaska United States57.1 N135.3 W00:11 28 Feb0.080.3
GuamGuam Guam13.4 N144.7 E03:070.160.5
Minamitorishima[174] Japan24.1N153.5E03:430.10.3
DART Saipan 19.1 N155.8 E03:550.080.3
Otsuchi, Iwate Japan39.21 N141.54 E06:431.454.35
Yamada, Iwate Japan39.47 N141.95 E08:141.614.85
Hachinohe, Aomori Japan40.30 N141.29 E08:440.92.7
Nemuro, Hokkaido Japan43.20 N145.35 E09:231.03.0
Kuji, Iwate Japan40.11 N141.46 E10:011.23.6
Susaki, Kōchi Japan33.24 N133.17 E10:421.23.6
Shibushi, Kagoshima Japan31.30 N131.03 E10:561.03.0
Tsunami ETA NOAA (hour 0=06:34 UTC 27 Feb) 
The energy model map of the tsunami. 
Countries with coastal areas that were at risk (in pink). 

See also


  1. The numbers were given by Chilean National Emergency Office (ONEMI) until 3. March. Up 14. March the Ministry of the Interior.


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