Chile's earthquakeThe city of Concepción moved 10 feet to the west; rebuilding infrastructure will cost $1.2 billion

Published 10 March 2010

Chile’s earthquake was the fifth most powerful quake ever measured; the powerful temblor shifts one city to the west — and rearranges others parts of South America as well; cost of rebuilding Chile’s infrastructure estimated at $1.2 billion

The massive 8.8 magnitude earthquake that struck Chile more than a week ago moved the city of Concepción at least 10 feet (3 meters) to the west, seismological measurements indicate. The violent temblor — the fifth most powerful quake ever measured — shifted other parts of South America as well, from the Falkland Islands (located just east of the southern tip of South America) to Fortaleza, Brazil, situated on that country’s northern coast.

MSNBC reports that the quake occurred off the coast of the Maule region of Chile in one of Earth’s seismic hotspots where the Nazca tectonic plate is squeezed under, or subducted below, the neighboring South American plate. Tension builds up as the plates move against each other, and earthquakes such as the one that struck Chile.

The earthquake-delayed school year began Monday, but education officials said it may take until 1 April before all students are back in classrooms. About half of the schools in the disaster zone have some damage from the 8.8-magnitude earthquake and tsunami, and others are being used as staging areas for relief. AP reports that while the education ministry has not tallied the total repair cost, it will likely use up a large part of the $1.2 billion that Chile estimates it will need for restoring infrastructure.

Reopening schools is a key part of the recovery effort. While rescue missions shifted to relief several days ago, bodies are still being recovered and identified, increasing the confirmed death toll to 497 Monday, Deputy Interior Minister Patricio Rosende said.

The government is still trying to determine exactly how many schools are unusable, but Education Minister Monica Jimenez said 80 percent of the students in the areas most affected by the disaster — more than 2 million in all — were resuming classes Monday, a week late. She said schools would gradually reopen for the rest. “By April first, we expect to have regional school systems functioning 100 percent,” said Miguel Rojas, the regional education director in Concepcion.

To make up for lost time, the July winter vacation has been canceled, authorities said.

Only schools that can guarantee water, power and safety for the children will be allowed to reopen, Rojas said. School directors will have to personally sign documents proving they have fulfilled the requirements, Rojas said.


In Chile’s capital, Santiago, Mayor Pablo Zalaquett said many older school buildings show dangerous cracks that need to be analyzed by structural engineers to be sure they are safe. Some 400,000 of the Santiago region’s 1.4 million primary and middle-school students had to stay home Monday as only some schools resumed.