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Chile: Disaster Management Reference Handbook May 2017

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Executive Summary

Chile is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world, mainly due to its location along the Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of intense volcanic activity and earthquakes. Chile is affected by drought, floods, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, forest fires, and earthquakes. Chile experienced the most devastating wildfire emergency in its history in January 2017. Wildfires spread affecting an estimated 1 million acres of vegetation. Rising sea temperatures and sea levels have affected those residing in Chile’s coastal areas and river basins. Chile has made progress in the investment of resilient infrastructure, early warning systems, and urban planning which has prevented casualties in recent earthquakes despite being hit by high magnitude earthquakes.

Chile has become more resilient to earthquakes. For example, in April 2014, a powerful 8.2 magnitude earthquake struck near Chile’s northern coast, prompting a tsunami and strong aftershocks. Because of Chile’s disaster response preparations and early detection of the tsunami, nearly 1 million people were safely evacuated. Early detection and disaster preparations is a result of lessons learned from the 2010 earthquake and subsequent tsunami. The 2010 Chile earthquake is considered the second strongest in the country's history and the sixth strongest in the world. The earthquake had a magnitude of 8.8 and released 500 times more energy than the Haitian disaster, but not as many lives were lost in the Chilean event. The government initially refused international aid, but later recanted their decision after further consideration. In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, the Chilean society was forced to reflect on how the country should prevent, mitigate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from the impacts of disasters. In 2010, over 500 people died in the earthquake; however, moving forward, Chile’s early warnings, coupled with Chile’s compliance with building codes have been very effective in saving lives during disasters. It is important to highlight the efforts made by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, which with its "Reconstruction Program" has incorporated criteria for disaster risk reduction.

Chile is among the many disaster prone countries that played a key role in formulating the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, a global plan for reducing disaster losses. In the three years following the 2010 disaster, Chile rebuilt or repaired approximately 87 percent of what was destroyed or damaged in the earthquake, demonstrating Chile’s resilience as a nation and highlighting Chile’s path to reconstruction.

According to Chilean governance, Santiago (Chile’s capital) is prone to disasters due to climate change impacts on the city. Santiago experiences inner-city flooding and urban fires. Nearly 90 percent (6 million) of Chilean residents live and work in Santiago, Chile. The city's resiliency plan includes measures to develop an early warning system to lower the risk of floods and wildfires and to strengthen emergency relief efforts. With the San Ramon fault line running along the edge of city, the resiliency strategy implements plans to link emergency response efforts and set up a system to monitor seismic activity. The focus also includes strengthening building regulations and implementing vulnerabilities into urban planning. The strategy, released as part of Santiago's participation in the 100 Resilient Cities Initiative, utilizes programs already underway in the city. At present, Chile does not have legislation that regulates the basic criteria for how post-disaster reconstruction process should be carried out. There is a need to generate disaster risk action guidelines to be incorporated into the management of public policies at all levels and in all areas of action. However, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development has incorporated criteria for disaster management risk reduction with its Reconstruction Program, with the aim of having communities that are more resilient.