The long, narrow South American nation sits in the dreaded “Ring of Fire,” plagued by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. It has the dubious distinction of being home to the world’s largest-recorded earthquake, a 9.5-magnitude monster in 1960.
And over the years, it has developed some of the most stringent anti-seismic building codes on the planet. It’s those regulations — and Chile’s ability to react to earthquakes — that experts credit with reducing casualties.
Wednesday’s quake struck at 7:45 p.m. about 27 miles west of the town of Illapel, which lies 175 miles north of the capital. Within minutes, tsunami warnings were issued along the Pacific seaboard and more than 1 million people were evacuated.
While the earthquake left almost a dozen dead, it could have been far worse. By comparison, the 8.1-magnitude earthquake that hit Nepal in April killed more than 9,000 people.
“Chile has very good building codes — up to the standards that any highly active earthquake country might have,” said John Bellini, a geophysicist at the U.S. Geological Survey in Denver. “That’s why Chile hasn’t had a lot of deaths from this earthquake and others in the recent past.” […]