Powerful aftershocks from Saturday's 8.8 Chile earthquake continue to rock the country, but the capital, Santiago, is calm as people cautiously begin to move on with their lives.
This is normal for a city not known for its early risers. Still, this is hardly any given Sunday for Santiago’s approximately 6 million residents, who are cautiously beginning to move on with their lives.
Electricity is still out in isolated sectors of the city, where several bridges, highways, and other vital infrastructure, including the international airport, suffered significant damage in Saturday morning’s 8.8-magnitude quake.
A 24-unit apartment building in the western borough of Maipu totters on the verge of total collapse and shards of broken glass still sparkle in the downtown streets. Pedestrians step gingerly to avoid sections of sidewalk where police have cordoned off piles of yet-to-be-cleared chunks of concrete, brick, and tile shaken loose during the disaster. In the meantime, powerful aftershocks continue to hit the capital. A 6.1-magnitude tremor struck just before 8:30 a.m.
Santiago’s children were supposed to begin a new school year Monday. Instead schools are to remain closed at least another week, President Michelle Bachelet, who leaves office March 11, told the nation during a televised address Saturday night.
“It’s a major tragedy, the post powerful [earthquake] in Chile in the last 50 years,” she said. “In the name of all Chileans, I express my true sorrow to the victims.”
Could have been much worse
Yet considering the magnitude of the event, most people here agree that Santiago – home to roughly a third of Chile’s population – fared surprisingly well.
The fierce earthquake was the largest in Chile since a 9.5-magnitude “megaquake” stuck the southern city of Valdivia in 1960. The Valdivia earthquake stands as the most powerful recorded anywhere in the world.