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News from Latin America and the Caribbean

Category: Tsunamis

Checking in on Chile: Pinera taps copper fund

Pinera chile

Chile is still actively recovering from the magnitude 8.8 earthquake of Feb 27. Roads, infrastructure, and the wine and oil industries continue to rebuild. On Thursday, the Justice Ministry announced a plan to declare any missing person officially dead if not found or accounted for 90 days after the quake hit. At least 500 people died in the earthquake or in the tsunami waves that followed.

To boost reconstruction in the most affected areas, newly inaugurated President Sebastian Pinera has decided to tap into the country's "rainy day" copper fund, The Times reports. From Chris Kraul:

Chile is among a few countries, including Norway and Kuwait, that have set aside funds generated by the sale of natural resources to act as a hedge against the vagaries of global commodities prices and provide a buffer to economic crises.

In Chile's case, the Copper Stabilization Fund, which totals about $11 billion, has been fed since the early 1990s mainly by profit from copper, the nation's leading export. Copper prices have tripled since 2003, benefiting the state-owned Codelco mining company, the world's largest producer and the principal contributor to the fund.

After being an active presence in the earthquake response effort even before taking office, Pinera was inaugurated last week as the first conservative leader elected since the end of the dictatorship two decades ago. During his inauguration ceremony at Chile's Congress in the coastal city of Valparaiso, a magnitude 7.2 aftershock struck, producing dramatic images of Bolivian President Evo Morales and Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo glancing nervously up to the ceiling.

Pinera, a billionaire investor (recently listed among Forbes' wealthiest), is facing public pressure to sell his shares of stock in LAN, Chile's national airline, as he promised to do. "The president could be involuntarily sending a message to young people, that it does not matter if you fulfill promises made in the public sphere. Is that what we call 'excellence'?" wrote Cristian Warnken, a blogger at the daily El Mercurio.

La Moneda, the presidential palace, has responded to the criticism by saying that Pinera's LAN interests are "not a government matter."

Online activism in Chile surged in the aftermath of the quake. On Facebook, more than 3,500 users have joined a group page dedicated to identifying firms that constructed new buildings that collapsed or were damaged beyond repair in the earthquake. Twitter users in Chile keep one another actively updated on aftershocks and pertinent information as recovery efforts continue.

One user, A_ndrea, tweeted on Pinera's inauguration day: "Sort of dizzy so much aftershocks."

-- Daniel Hernandez in Mexico City

Photo: Newly inaugurated Chilean President Sebastian Pinera. Credit: Agence-France Presse.

Fear, despair haunt Chile coast


Barely a building remains standing in this once-pleasant beach resort that slopes up from Chile's Dichato Bay, a scenic cove largely shielded from the open Pacific.

The row of eateries and bars that once lined the shore are smashed to pieces. The central plaza is a pile of debris: splintered wood beams, bent metal roofs, dented gas tanks, fences, broken trees and kitchen appliances, among other objects. Fishing boats have been tossed a mile into town and beyond.

The magnitude 8.8 earthquake that struck Chile last week clearly caused a lot of damage, but here and in other coastal communities it was the ensuing tsunami that proved most destructive.

Residents in Dichato said the waves came ashore between the headlands over several hours, engulfing houses, boats, cars and everything else in their way.

Continue reading "Chile's coast haunted by fear, desolation" from Chris Kraul in Dichato.

Photo: A painting lies amid the ruins of a home in Dichato, a small beach enclave where 17 people died and as many as 50 are missing. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times.


Photos: 8.8 earthquake rocks Chile.

Worried but well-prepared Japan escapes tsunami damage

Japan A nervous Japan on Sunday prepared for Godzilla. What it got instead was closer to the car insurance gecko.

Fearing a major tsunami could be triggered by Chile's 8.8-magnitude earthquake, authorities here ordered nearly a quarter of a million households along the island nation's eastern seaboard to evacuate to higher ground.

Disaster workers expected 10-foot waves or larger. Instead, by Sunday evening, only a few insignificant 6-inch to foot-high waves lapped onto Japanese-controlled shores.

"I was watching television all day and I was worried," said Yufuko Goto, a 19-year-old waitress. "They were evacuating people. And I thought that something really big was coming our way."

Continue reading A worried but well-prepared Japan escapes tsunami damage by John M. Glionna.

Photo: Evacuees gather at a shelter in the Japanese town of Minami-sanriku. Credit: Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP / Getty Images

Pacific-wide tsunami alert lifted

Hokkaido The tsunami from Chile's devastating earthquake hit Japan's main islands and the shores of Russia on Sunday, but the smaller-than-expected waves prompted the lifting of a Pacific-wide alert. Hawaii and other Pacific islands were also spared.

Hundreds of thousands of people fled shorelines for higher ground after the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii warned 53 nations and territories that a tsunami had been generated by Saturday's magnitude-8.8 quake earthquake. After the center lifted its warning, some countries kept their own watches in place as a precaution.

In Japan, the biggest wave hit the northern island of Hokkaido. There were no immediate reports of damage from the 4-foot-high wave, though some piers were briefly flooded.

As it crossed the Pacific, the tsunami dealt populated areas — including the U.S. state of Hawaii — only a glancing blow.

The tsunami raised fears Pacific nations could suffer from disastrous waves like those that killed 230,000 people around the Indian Ocean in December 2004, which happened with little-to-no warning and much confusion about the impending waves.

Continue reading »

Tiny tsunami reaches Japan

Boats The first tsunami from the Chilean earthquake hit Japan's outlying islands on Sunday, but while the initial waves were small and most of the Pacific islands already in its path had been spared damage, officials warned a bigger surge could follow.

Japan's Meteorological Agency said the first wave to reach Japan after the magnitude 8.8 quake off Chile was recorded in the Ogasawara islands. It was just 4 inches high. Another, measuring about 12 inches, was observed in Hokkaido, to the north. There were no reports of damage.

As it crossed the Pacific, the tsunami has dealt populated areas — including the U.S. state of Hawaii — just a glancing blow.

But Japan, fearing the tsunami could gain force as it moved closer, put all of its eastern coastline on tsunami alert Sunday and ordered hundreds of thousands of residents in low-lying areas to seek higher ground as waves generated by the Chilean earthquake raced across the Pacific at hundreds of miles per hour.

Japan is particularly sensitive to the tsunami threat.

Continue reading »

Tsunami watch: High waves spare Hawaii

Watching It started with a phone call from a neighbor at 4:30 a.m., jarring Maureen Goto awake at her seaside bed-and-breakfast in Hilo.

"A tsunami's coming," the neighbor said. A little more than an hour later, civil defense sirens sounded in coastal areas across the state, triggering the evacuation of as many as 100,000 people and a tense day of waiting for a possible disaster.

"They said, 'You have to go inland, and up,' " said Goto, whose 1930s-era mansion in Hilo, on the island of Hawaii, had already withstood tsunamis that twice devastated the town.

"It was spooky, especially when you're just listening to the radio, and they say the water's receding out of the bay, and the next thing you know it's coming back up over the bridge," she said. "You're just sitting there, not knowing if the big one is coming with the next few waves."

The first Pacific-wide tsunami advisory since 1964, triggered by an 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile, ended for Hawaii with relatively minor ocean surges that did no significant damage, though thousands of residents were forced to flee their homes for higher ground and hotels evacuated guests to higher floors or called buses to shuttle them to safe areas.

Continue reading »

Tsunami magnitude difficult to predict

Tsunami_graphic Scientists can do a very good job of tracking the progression of a tsunami and predicting when it will arrive, but they have much more difficulty predicting how big it will be, experts said Saturday.

That disparity has become apparent following the magnitude 8.8 earthquake off the coast of Chile. Researchers from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center in Hawaii predicted to within a few minutes when the tsunami -- a massive influx of water rather like a flash flood -- would arrive at Hilo. They also predicted that the wave height would range from 2 to 8 feet, and they were correct. But when the waves proved to be at the low end of the range, they were widely perceived as having blown the prediction.

Tsunami expert Harry Yeh of Oregon State University said the forecasters had to err on the side of caution. "Even if they knew deep in their heart that it probably wouldn't be large, it could be large," he said. "If they lost one life [because they underestimated the size of the tsunami], that would be a problem."

The biggest problem in predicting the size of a tsunami is in determining exactly how much energy was put into the ocean by an earthquake, and that is something that cannot be determined in the immediate aftermath of the event.

Continue reading Tsunami magnitude difficult to predict by Thomas H. Maugh II.

Hawaii reports no apparent tsunami damage

Shore A tsunami triggered by a massive earthquake in Chile surged across Hawaii on Saturday, churning up sediment with minor waves and tidal surges, but causing no apparent damage.

The National Tsunami Warning Center canceled a tsunami alert that prompted the evacuation of nearly 100,000 residents and tourists and emptied the state's beaches on a warm, sunny weekend morning.

"I think we've dodged a bullet," Gerard Fryer of the National Tsunami Warning Center told reporters in Honolulu.

"We've been watching the gauges, and the wave heights are below danger levels everywhere." But he cautioned swimmers against returning to the ocean for at least several hours because of the danger of strong currents.

Continue reading Hawaii reports no apparent tsunami damage by Kim Murphy.

Photo: People gather along Tantalus Drive in Honolulu to watch Oahu's southern shore in anticipation of a possible tsunami. Credit: Kent Nishimura / Getty Images.

Pacific Tsunami Warning Center cancels tsunami warning for Hawaii

Hawaii The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center has canceled its tsunami warning for Hawaii, with the state apparently escaping the roiling waves generated by the Chile earthquake unscathed.

Gov. Linda Lingle says no damage has been reported in any county. Tidal surges were observed Saturday along the coasts but did not roar ashore. She's calling it “a great day now that it's over.”

--Associated Press

Photo: The ocean at Waikiki Beach starts to recede. Credit: Eugene Tanner / Associated Press.

Chile quake-generated tsunami brings spectators, little damage to L.A. beaches

Santa_monica Waves generated from a tsunami reached the Southern California coast Saturday afternoon — with little damage or drama.

While hundreds of people went to local beaches to watch the surge, for many, the waves were difficult to detect.

The National Weather Service said there was a 2.2-foot surge in Santa Monica and a 3-foot surge in Ventura. The Ventura County Sheriff's Department reported minor damage at Ventura Harbor from several buoys washing away.

Read the full report, Tsunami surge brings spectators, little damage to L.A. beaches, by Rong-Gong Lin II and Shelby Grad at L.A. Now.

Photo: Crowds gather at the end of the Santa Monica Pier minutes before the tsunami was expected to hit. Credit: Christina House / For The Times.

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