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When the Earth Moves

One of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded ripped through central Chile on Feb. 27, tearing up roads and bridges, reducing homes and hospitals to rubble. Many residents on the country's shoreline survived the quake only to drown shortly after, when a tsunami sucked boats and houses into the sea. Describing a "catastrophe of unthinkable magnitude," Chile's President Michelle Bachelet vowed to explore whether the country's tsunami-warning system had failed and, with water and food running low, deployed troops to combat looting, search for survivors and restore order.(See pictures of Chile's massive earthquake.)
Officially, the quake measured 8.8 on the Richter scale — powerful enough, NASA announced, to shift the earth's axis and shorten the planet's day. But in the face of such awesome power, the death toll remained relatively low: 799 as of March 3. By contrast, more than 200,000 Haitians died as a result of a Jan. 12 quake that was very much weaker than the one in Chile.
The reason is clear: Chile is a country that is rich enough and well governed enough to insist that buildings be constructed to withstand quakes. Haiti is neither. There is a lesson in this. The biggest threat to human life was once natural disasters. Now it is our own shortcomings. To walk through Chile's gleaming and unbroken capital is to learn that although earthquakes, when coupled with dire poverty, can do terrible harm, we have the capacity to mitigate it.
When the earth moved under Chile, many of its engineers and development experts were hard at work in Haiti; now they will return to focus on their own wounded country. When things are broken, Chile reminds us, they can be fixed.
Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1969741,00.html#ixzz0jni9xMGM
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