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A different earthquake

February 27, 2010 am28 11:38 am

Chile was struck today by a massive earthquake – perhaps 8.8 on the Richter scale.

Haiti’s earthquake last month was 7.0 on the Richter scale.

The Richter scale is proportional to the log of the amplitude of the waves careening through the earth. Makes the distortion of the ground almost 100 times greater in Chile. And how much more energy was released? About 1000 times more.

In Haiti over 200 thousand people were killed, and a million left homeless. Yet, so far, albeit with considerable damage, there are about 100 reported fatalities in Chile.

Why should an earthquake 1000 less more powerful cause so much more human suffering?


and a lack of preparedness. Due to Poverty.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. bxsciteacher permalink
    February 27, 2010 pm28 10:11 pm 10:11 pm

    the difference is not primarily due to poverty but due to the number of people in the immediate vicinity of the epicenter of the quake; in haiti, 3 million people were in the immediate zone where there was sustained “quaking”; in chile, there was virtually no one – this is courtesy of cnn, who explained this in detail, using a chart and google maps; so, what on the surface may be an apparent reason, if you look below the surface, you will find the real reason for the discrepancy; and ps, also according to cnn, the chilean quake was 800 times more powerful than the haitian quake!

    • February 27, 2010 pm28 11:42 pm 11:42 pm

      I’m not buying. The epicenter was halfway between Concepcion and Santiago. This was 1000 times (800?) more powerful. And there were over 100,000 people living within a few miles. Take 3M:100K, that’s 30:1. Ignore the energy released. And something is still off, way too high, about the quantity of destruction and the loss of life in Haiti.

  2. February 28, 2010 pm28 8:55 pm 8:55 pm

    I too heard the explanation that a large part of the difference was the locations of cities compared to the epicenter, and that although orders of magnitude more energy were released, it was more spread out, whereas the Haitian one was more concentrated. Also I believe seismologists are saying the Haitian quake was “shallower” which led to more devestation from a “smaller” quake.

    Of course poverty, lack of warning, poorly-constructed buildings were a contributing factor in Haiti, but it’s not the whole story. The quakes were not comparable and a single number on the Richter scale does not tell everything we need to know to understand each earthquake.

  3. February 28, 2010 pm28 9:50 pm 9:50 pm

    Yes, I oversimplified. And yes, the differences in geometry/geology were huge.

    But poverty is clearly a major factor in quality of construction, and in preparedness.

  4. February 28, 2010 pm28 9:56 pm 9:56 pm

    I think there’s also a difference of history. Haiti has never really had a bad earthquake before. Chile has. They are prepared partially because they can afford to be, and partially because they know they have to be. Haiti, even if they could have afforded to prepare, probably wouldn’t have prioritized it because they just never expected it.

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