Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Hualpén vs Haiti: Maule vs Miami

It is inevitable that many people on the street, especially the broken up, lawless streets of Concepción, are criticising the government for its slow response, builders for shoddy construction, telephone companies for cut lines, power companies for outages, and so on.

So this posting (hat tip Two Weeks Notice), is refreshing.

There are two separate issues here. On the one hand there is the quality of construction and infrastructure. While tradtional Chilean building codes have strong anti-seismic elements, it has not escaped our attention that many new buildings, and most unforgiveably, Santiago's international aiport, have suffered serious damage. What is behind that? Laxness in enforcing building codes? Corruption? Laziness? Or, as one colleage put it, a blind desire to pretend we live in Miami, and not in the most seismically active country on earth?

The same questions can be applied to the second issue: government and military response after the fact. Why were government communciations impossible in the hours after the quake? Why did Hillary Clinton have to donate the twenty or so sattelite phones she was carrying on her airplane? Why does Chile have only three MASH units, each capable of handling a maximum of 50 or 75 people? Why was the government unwilling to declare a state of emergency, including curfews? Why do the regions outside of Santiago have no more than one or two representatives of the national emergency response agency?

Corruption? Laziness? A Miami mentality?

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