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Note on the First World Status of Chile

Is Chile a First World country? During the Cold War Era, the term “First World” referred to the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Western Europe, which were industrialized and had a large and growing middle class. The “Second World” referred to communist countries, especially in Eastern Europe, but by extension also in Asia, and even Cuba, perhaps. The “Third World” was basically everywhere else, mostly poor and/or oppressive countries run by a few wealthy families in Africa, southern Asia, Latin America and most Pacific and Caribbean island nations.

Note that in the compounds where the rich live within the Third World, the environment may look like the First World for a few blocks or even several square kilometers. Such is the case in cities within countries like India, Brazil, South Africa, Bolivia, Peru, Panama, Malasia and Thailand. Nevertheless, the limited existence of a high standard of living for those fortunate 1% or 2% of the population does not elevate the country out of its Third World status.

Since the end of the Cold War, the world’s political landscape has changed, and such terminology has fallen out of favor. But I still like using it. Hence, in my writings, I have chosen to hijack the term Second World and redefine it as something in between First World and Third World. The concept was accordingly morphed to refer to those countries that have a lot of urban blight and old or ugly buildings and infrastructure, but also have a significant and growing middle class with some disposable income. As a result, in countries meeting those criteria, there is very little hunger, nearly everyone has shoes, as well as access to technology (e.g., cell phone), education and basic medical services.

An online search for the term First World reveals that the word technically means, “the highly developed industrialized nations often considered the westernized countries of the world.” Beyond this definition, however, Wikipedia actually has a pretty good, embellished meaning that better relates to the modern-day scenario: “the definition has instead largely shifted to any country with little political risk and a well functioning democracy, rule of law, capitalist economy, economic stability and high standard of living. Various ways in which modern First World countries are often determined include GDP, GNP, literacy rates and the Human Development Index.” Obviously, this definition precludes the inclusion of countries like Cuba, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Belarus, etc. However, it also allows for the inclusion of countries like Chile, Israel, South Korea, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, all of which have large and growing middle classes, and possibly even opens the door to soon let in places like New Caledonia, Mauritius, Bahamas, Namibia, Turkey, Mexico and South Africa.

Building on that paradigm, in my book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, I argue that Chile is (by many standards) a First World country, especially in its central part, which includes Santiago and Viña del Mar-Concón. That rationale does not mean that Chile offers the same standard of living as Japan, Hong Kong, Western Europe, Canada, Australia or the United States. However, Chile does share some common features with them, a fact that is reflected by Chile being the only Latin American country to have qualified for the USA’s “visa-waiver program” and that it is no longer eligible for World Bank or IMF aid (like its neighbors). Chile’s standard of living and quality of life continues to rise, too, along with its amenities and infrastructure quality. Indeed, Chile has great, private inter-urban highways and the strongest, most earthquake-resistant, buildings in the world. Both things are hearty pluses for the country.

The case for Chile’s “first-worldliness” is underscored by its inclusion among the ranks of the formidable 35 OECD countries of the world. The OECD website states,

Today, our 35 Member countries span the globe, from North and South America to Europe and Asia-Pacific. They include many of the world’s most advanced countries but also emerging countries like Mexico, Chile and Turkey.

Excluding small island countries and minor, rich, enclave countries in Europe (e.g., Monaco, San Marino, Andorra), the OECD list basically includes the wealthiest 20% of all countries in the world, in terms of economic, political, social and legal development. Not surprisingly, Chile is ranked 30th in terms of GDP, and enjoys the company of Slovenia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Portugal, Greece and Estonia just ahead of it, and Poland, Hungary, Turkey and Mexico just behind it. All of those countries, excepting perhaps the last two, are widely considered to be First World countries. Why then should Chile not be?

Chile is certainly not the Third World but, admittedly, most of it would certainly fall into the Second World category if it were carved up. Nevertheless, judging from my travels to OECD and other countries, Northeastern Santiago, Viña del Mar-Concón, Pucón, Zapallar and Puerto Varas would all qualify as First World areas of Chile, with parts of the Concepción and La Serena metro areas making a run for it. That means that the majority of Chileans live in or next to First World environs. By extension, I think it is not unreasonable to place Chile marginally into the First World category.

Stating this fact does not mean that Chile’s standard of living is like that found in countries with much higher GDPs, like the United States, France, Norway, Switzerland, Japan, etc. All First World countries are not equal. One need only to compare most of Italy, Greece and Portugal with the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and Austria to see that reality born out. The same is true with the United States, Australia and Canada, which have vast internal, socio-economic differences: bustling and beautiful major city centers surrounded by pockets of degraded neighborhoods or slums, and many shanties, mobile home parks or rural areas that can only honestly qualify as Second World sectors within First World boundaries.

Not all Americans, for instance, live in Manhattan, Michigan Avenue (Chicago), Boca Raton, Santa Barbara or Beverly Hills and make six- or seven-figure incomes. The great majority of Americans live in small towns, rust-belt, run-down inner-city slums (e.g., Watts, south Chicago, Detroit) and rural areas, mostly in the South or Southwest, where many earn less than a couple thousand dollars per month. American poverty is common and often abysmal in the aforementioned places. Over 20% of Americans receive welfare, not counting Social Security recipients.

The same thing happens in Italy, where large earners live in Turin, Milan and Rome, but myriad small towns and rural areas are chock full of families squeaking by on under 1,500 Euros per month. Such widespread income disparities or pockets of poverty do not disqualify America or Italy from being considered First World countries. The average or per capita measure is used to rank them. The same logic applies to Chile.

Chile is First World, but situated in a lower rung of the group. That fact is not in dispute. Accordingly, newcomers will have to make some adjustments. One newcomer recently remarked to me, “Bottom line–we will have to adjust to the lower standard of living or leave. That’s all there is to it.” Actually, he will learn over time that the upper middle class in Chile actually lives at a higher standard of living in Chile than in the USA or Europe. Here people from that class can afford household servants, private schools for their kids, better-quality vehicles, beach/lakeside second homes, country club memberships and specialized medical care that can only be afforded by the upper class up yonder.

Newcomers simply need to be patient and learn to break into this rung. They cannot see soon after arrival what the benefits will be, but they should ask themselves: “Why is it that the upper classes here do not try to live in North America or Western Europe, even when a great number of them hold American, Canadian and especially EU passports from Italy, Germany, Sweden or Spain, as well as their Chilean ones? It is at least in part because their standard of living and quality of life is higher in Chile than it would otherwise be up yonder. They have goods and services here that they could not dream of up there. That is why so many expats that come to Chile under contract with mining or agricultural firms try to stay on in country after their contract ends.

Anyone who claims that comunas like Las Condes, Vitacura and Reñaca-Concon are not First World has obviously not traveled much, even to non-glamorous parts of the USA or Europe. As an OECD country, Chile is classified among the world’s wealthiest nations, and noticeably more so every year. I see it more now compared to when I first arrived in 1996. If Chile continues to grow the same for the next two decades, it will surpass many other countries on the OECD list. Still, the USA is presently a richer country than Chile; no one is denying that fact. But how many wars, central bank disasters, EMPs, nukes, plagues, etc. is the USA away from facing more widespread poverty? Chile is mercifully free from those threats.

Indeed, Chile has already exceeded most other OECD countries in some things. It has far better internet connection infrastructure than any other country I have been to, including the USA, Spain, Germany, New Zealand and Italy. After ousting the communists in 1973, Chile installed fiber optics everywhere. Other countries are still catching up. Chile also has, hands down, the best and strongest buildings in the world. Indeed, building quality (excluding the finish work) is much better in Chile than in the USA, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Canada and Western Europe. Neither of those credentials are unimportant. In addition, Chile has some of the most modern mining and port facilities in the world. The only place in the Western Hemisphere with superior medical care to the top Santiago “clinics” are the top places in the USA and maybe the Einstein system in Sao Paulo. The same may be said of some spots in the UK and Germany, and perhaps France and Japan, too. That fact is huge. One never knows when he will need good medical care.

Cell phone service in Chile is as good as in Europe and better than in the USA. It is top-notch in Chile. The intercity highways are on par with the richest OECD countries, too. People rightly complain about the poor quality of city streets in Viña del Mar, and rightly so, but their condition does not make Chile less than First World. Bigger First World cities like Naples, Italy have roads that are at least as bad. Supermarkets and super centers or malls are at least as modern in Santiago and Viña del Mar as I have seen in the USA and Western Europe. Santiago has a modern, fast and convenient international airport. These are just a few important indicators. If I were to spend a few hours pondering, I could come up with other things. Chile also copies some of the best things found in other OECD countries, such as magnetic, inclined moving walkways that grab onto the shopping cart’s wheels, and a system of red/green lights over parking lot stalls in larger garages that let drivers know if there are open stalls available in any given row.

Some newcomers complain about air conditioning and heating systems. While air conditioning is largely unnecessary in almost any part of Chile, with the possible exception of west-facing apartments in Santiago, heating is needed in most places. Most modern buildings have central heating but some do not, since locals prefer to use cheaper floor heater units instead. Nonetheless, even in this preference, Chile is not different than many other OECD countries.I have lived in Chile the better part of 22 years and have never needed or wanted air conditioning in either northeastern Santiago or Viña del Mar. Ditto for ceiling fans. If either were needed, Chileans could easily import them.

The Santiago summer heat is possible to beat by just opening the windows in the morning and closing them in the afternoon. (The maids are used to coordinating this effort.) The only apartments that one will see with air conditioning units are directly west-facing ones, which always sell for less on account of this feature. Some apartments are designed without central heating since it is expensive and many people prefer to save the additional cost for central heating and simply bring their own US$250 Toyotomi (Japanese, kerosene) or other portable heater. However, that fact does not mean that apartments in Santiago are without heat. doing without heat is a choice people make. Indeed, I have central heat where I live in Viña del Mar. So, one can get it.

A newcomer once complained, “Outside of Northeast Santiago  there are shanty towns everywhere. Toilets don’t work right (don’t flush the paper). There is no toilet paper in public bathrooms, every house has to have its own dungeon-like security setup. There are homeless dogs everywhere. That’s my definition of Second World.” While some of these aspects admittedly discredit claims to Chile’s first-worldliness, they generally do not. Remember that relatively few OECD countries a perfect in every category of modernity, anti-theft measures, infrastructure, wealth and overall prosperity. Protective gates and fences, for instance, are also commonplace in First World Europe.

He also complained about oppressive relative costs for tolls, energy and other items, generated by taxes or monopolies in Chile. That idea is certainly true when it comes to gasoline and certain regulated monopolies, including notaries, real property recorders, along with electricity, water and natural gas providers. However, any observable relatively higher cost of certain goods and services, whether due to being taxed by government or corporate “tyranny” (even if such a thing did exist in a market economy), has nothing to do with whether a country is First World. Spend a little time in Western Europe, Japan, Singapore or Hong Kong and you will see very relative high prices for things and yet still those places are still very First World. Newcomers that state that high relative prices are part-and-parcel of the Second World are  non-economists using economics jargon in a nonsensical way.

Let me comment further on some of the claims of this newcomer. First, there are shanty towns in Chile, but they are no worse than those found in the rat/drug-infested Bronx, inner-city Detroit, Oil City, Pennsylvania, the miles of slums along the West Virginia/Kentucky border, “rust belt” slums, shanties in many parts along the Mississippi River or in many Arizona/New Mexico Indian villages. Ditto for many places in Europe, especially Portugal, Greece and Italy. Being “First World” does not mean the near absence of shanties, but it does imply far fewer of them over time. What Chile bears is nothing compared to what countries do in the Third World, like Bolivia and Brazil and, other than external appearance, generate not much worse living conditions than the non-seismic-safe, centuries-old edifices in poorer areas of Italy, Portugal and Greece.

Second, homeless dogs are definitely a point against Chilean first-worldliness, although Chileans think that euthanizing them in the other First World counties shows then to be in fact brutal regimes; ditto for abortion other than “in a few exceptional cases.” Third, people steal the toilet paper and that frequent situation is why one must “carry his own” unless he uses a pay restroom (better). Doing so is a total hassle but the absence of toilet paper has nothing to do with whether a country is First World. All public restrooms in pubic places in Europe are paid, too. Note that not being able to flush toilet paper due to inadequate sewer infrastructure (not the toilets themselves) does certainly indicate something less than First World, but it is the only thing on his list that is clearly so. Let’s hope the situation in Chile improves. Until then, we must grin and bear it.

I have done what I can to help my reader understand what to expect in terms of standard of living in Chile. What I said about costs and infrastructure is accurate. I pull no punches with regard to Chile and I have the relevant university degrees and extensive travel experience to back up what I am saying. When Chile needs to be slammed I do so, but I am not going to level untrue or unfounded claims at it based on incorrect definitions of things like “First World” or judgments about the features of the OECD group of countries. Chile has its problems but so does every country.

For newcomers reading this article, I suggest that you just be glad you are in a safe place in the Southern Hemisphere and learn to make the best of it instead of complaining a lot or throwing out sweeping, unsubstantiated claims. You did, after all, choose to come to Chile because you felt considerable uneasiness about living in the old country. As bad as Chile might be, it is probably still much better than a FEMA camp or a false-flag zone, no?

Prewar Germany, England and France were jewels, too. A lot of it soon became rubble, with all the associated carnage among their previously-thriving populations. Do you really think that the same thing cannot happen again in Western Europe or in North America? If you think that the risks of staying in the old country are too high, and have come to Chile to “escape,” then I suggest that you learn to be an optimist and adopt a positive outlook. No one likes to be making a go at something new and difficult, and to be frequently bombarded by whining and nagging people, reminiscing about how things were better in the old country. Chile is going to be what we make it.

I do not worry about being in my Chilean building if and when there is an 8+ Richter Scale earthquake. However, I would be very worried if I were in California or Italy by the prospect of such a large earthquake (and yet they are still First World places, too, no?). My food quality in Chile is better than in other First World places (and yet they are still First World, too, no?).

There are other things that I enjoy in Chile. I get to have an ocean view and can grow organic blueberries in my backyard. I have lots of avocados coming on the tree now, too. I have a gardener that tends to things. My view makes me smile every day. My internet almost always flies (over 170mpbs download and 8mbps upload). I have far more here than I ever had in the land of the free or Italy. I am content with what God has provided and hope to make more improvements. Can you say the same where you live?

Friendly last word to newcomers: Try not to focus on negative things. It does not help to do so. We know they are here in Chile. But there are a lot of positive things, too, right? Do you fear jack-booted thugs breaking down your door by accident one night and shooting you? How about a “terrorist” bombing/shooting/stabbing/vehicular homicide? Or a family court stealing all your assets and filching your children? Is there any concern that the feds might steal your retirement savings? Will the EPA or FCC use you like a guinea pig? Is there a chance that you will be fired for not being politically correct enough at work? How about chem-trails, GMO foods, possible radiation? While, I am not sure about the true extent of any of those threats, I am confident that I do not face them here. It seems to me that all of us in Chile have a lot more to be thankful for than many are willing to admit. I hope you will agree and put on a positive attitude moving forward in our adopted First World country.

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country. Non-wealthy immigrants to Chile should also create a portable income by signing up to be a 51Talk online English teacher. Read more details about the job in my previous post on the subject.

Dr. Cobin’s updated and enlarged 2017 book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, Fourth Edition, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $129.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged 2015 book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights (somewhat outdated) found in the larger book. Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

Chile Never Has Hurricanes

Chile is famous for a lot of things. For instance, many Chileans are artful liars, cheaters and thieves. Recent reports show that a full 26% of them evade paying the fare on city buses in Santiago. No one in Chile is surprised by that fact, unless they think that the figure is too low.

Chileans are also artistic, entertaining and playfuleven clownish. At intersections in Santiago and Viña del Mar drivers will frequently see juggling, ventriloquist and gymnastic performances from young people trying to earn some coins as tips.

Chileans like to joke around, too, and they are inherently conservative socially—other than their propensity to engage in fornication and adultery. Accordingly, they were sanctioned recently by world soccer authority FIFA for the anti-homosexual chants of fans in Santiago stadium during soccer matches, and Chile was hence declared to be the most “homophobic” country in the world.

Those are a few tidbits of information that speak volumes about Chilean life and reality.

Nevertheless, hurricanes are not part of Chilean reality (or almost anywhere else in South America). While they are an annual preoccupation and presently occupy the attention of many millions of people in America (e.g., Hurricane Matthew’s assault), just as typhoons occupy the minds of people in the Far East and around the Indian Ocean, those living in Chile never give hurricanes a second thought. They are as foreign to Chile as squirrels, rattlesnakes, water moccasins, crocodiles, water mocasins, coral snakes, bald eagles, alligators, bears, tigers, skunks, elk, buffalo, moose, larger deer and armadillos, and just about as hard to conceive of as a “white Christmas.” Chileans only know about these animals and hurricanes because they have read or heard that such critters live or happen in other parts of the world, far away from Chile.

historical-hurricanes-1851-2016

world-hurricane-tracks-1851-2007

Note that in the world maps above tracking the history of hurricanes, they do not occur in Chile or the rest of South America—at least south of the Caribbean coast of Colombia and Venezuela. Chile is thus akin to the west coast of Africa, the western United States and Canada, most of Europe, Africa and Asia. Therefore, while Chile has its share of pitfalls and problems, one need never worry about being impacted by a hurricane while living here.

Given the current worries in the United States, it seemed fitting to broach the subject for people that did not know. Moreover, Americans would do well to remember that as bad as hurricane impacts are or will be, they pale by comparison to the damage inflicted by the United States government, as the present political circus has exemplified.

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country.

Dr. Cobin’s updated and enlarged 2016 book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $149.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books. Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

Christian Theology of Public Policy: Highlighting the American Experience (2006)

Bible and Government: Public Policy from a Christian Perspective (2003)

A Primer on Modern Themes in Free Market Economics and Policy (2009)

Gang Violence in Chile

Some things just never stay the same. For years I had been pleased to report that Chile was mercifully free of violent gangs, commonplace in the United States and elsewhere. There were (and still are) groups that “hang out” together, called tribus urbanas, and that sometimes have tussles with the police. However, USA-styled gang “warfare” simply has not been widespread in Chile.

Now we hear news reports about a pistol-toting gang in Northwestern Santiago known as Los Chubis. News cameras have recorded their members, which are also involved in drug trafficking, shooting up the neighborhood, leaving bullet holes everywhere. The gang is located in the Parinacota neighborhood of the Quilicura comuna. The area is quite poor, but by no means the poorest part of Santiago. Now residents are quite scared.

Gang members are largely made up of convicted felons that speak coa or flaite dialects. One can hardly understand them when interviewed. What one can readily perceive in the news reports is building walls, inside and out, riddled with bullet holes. Moreover, members of both gangs sport many surgery scars and bullet holes in the bodies that they readily show to news reporters.

Worse yet, Los Chubis apparently now have a rival gang to contend with: El Barza, led by a guy known as “El Polaco.” One result was the October 31, 2015 (Halloween) murder of a neighborhood youth on his birthday (apparently by a Chubi), Arnaldo Céspedes, age 14, cousin of one of the El Barza gang. This act incurred retaliation by intentionally burning down the house of the “mother” (gang leader) of Los Chubis, María Vilches. So far, four homes have been burned down due to gang violence, which continues to escalate. For instance, the body of a boy, Isaac Pardo, known as El Palta, was burned beyond recognition and dumped up the road in the comuna of Lampa.

For a country not known for its violence, this gang activity has been shocking. Although it is not widespread in Chile, and certainly has not attained anything close to the level of gangsterism in the United States, obviously the idea of violent gangs has become a reality in some places and, unfortunately, may tend to spread.

This change marks a difference from when I first introduced largely peaceful tribus urbanas in an April 2010 blog entry. Of course, all of this sad crime does not affect the upper-class areas of Northeastern Santiago, or nicer regional communities like Viña del Mar, Concón, Zapallar, La Serena, etc. But newcomers to Chile would be well-advised to steer clear of the Parinacota barrio of Quilicura. Doing so should be easy to do, since they would normally have no reasons to go there.

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country.

Dr. Cobin’s updated and enlarged 2016 book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $149.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books. Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

Christian Theology of Public Policy: Highlighting the American Experience (2006)

Bible and Government: Public Policy from a Christian Perspective (2003)

A Primer on Modern Themes in Free Market Economics and Policy (2009)

8.4 Earthquake in Central Chile (September 16, 2015)

Anyone who was not a true believer in Chilean construction quality before, sure must be now.

On September 16, 2015, just before 8 p.m. (the sun had recently set), central Chile was struck by a powerful 8.4 Richter Scale earthquake, followed shortly thereafter by major aftershocks on that scale of 7.6, 7.2 and 6.7. The epicenter was about 95 miles north of where I live in Viña del Mar and close to the same distance south of La Serena. It was strongly felt in Santiago, too.

The shaking lasted between two and three minutes–quite a long time. Tsunamis of one to four meters hit the Chilean central coast within two hours, causing considerable damage in some places, including Concón just north of Viña del Mar, Tongoy and other parts of the Coquimbo Region.

Several people died from heart attacks, and a few people died in older towns when adobe structures caved-in on them. Still, the total death toll stands at a surprisingly low 11 people. Earthquakes of much smaller magnitudes in other countries have killed hundreds and thousands of people.

A couple hundred older structures in smaller cities like Illapel were damaged or destroyed, and structures in villages along the coast were damaged or destroyed by the tsunami waves. Some villages had power outages. In the country’s main urban centers of Santiago, Viña del Mar and Valparaíso and in La Serena there was no significant damage and no loss of power. The Internet never stopped working. Cell phones stayed online as well, and the government sent out tsunami evacuation warnings via cell phone service.

Now, 72 hours after the earthquake, there have been a total of 340 aftershocks. It shakes about once every ten minutes on average. Most of these aftershocks have been between 3 and 5,5 on the Richter Scale. However, some have been larger. Ten have been between 5.5 and 5.9 on that scale, ten more between 6.0 and 6.9, and two have been over 7.

To say that Central Chile has been rocking and rolling is an understatement. But the country is well prepared for seismic activity and life has continued on normally since the shaking started.

What other country in the world has a completely normal business day following an 8.4 quake and two aftershocks over 7? That’s a rhetorical question obviously. The number is zero.

The interesting thing is that the international press says that since the big quake in 2010, Chilean quake standards or building quality has gone up a lot. They have risen but were already high enough. Things are obviously solid in Chile. Indeed, there has been no significant damage to places that I know of whatsoever. One friend of mine in Santiago commented: “It is amazing isn’t it? I honestly felt no fear last night. Just slept through the aftershocks. Chileans do some things VERY well.” I could not agree more. My business day after the earthquake was 100% normal, as if there were no catastrophic earthquake the previous night.

My friend continued: “I watched from my terrace window as things shook. Transformers were blowing up all over the city of Santiago. Huge balls of fire and a cascade of sparks. Yet there were no blackouts. So, obviously, there is a lot of redundancy built into the grid.  It can take a lot of punishment and not go down. Amazing…” He continued, “I think it is really hard for people outside of Chile to understand how violent these quakes are. Yet, it is equally difficult for the same people to understand that a country can be prepared and fend off the worst of it. I think one has to experience it firsthand to really get it.”

Funny how many Americans just assume that their building quality standards are as high or higher than Chile’s. But they are not. Earthquake danger is much higher in North America, New Zealand or Europe than in it is in Chile. When it comes to earthquakes, Chileans do not mess around, and they are trained from an early age to be prepared.

In recent years, much smaller earthquakes in New Zealand, Haiti, Italy and California have had a devastating impact on lives lost and property damaged. In fact, these earthquakes were smaller than several of the aftershocks we have experienced in the last few days.

I watched with dismay as the Fox News reporter started talking about the assumed horrible impact of this quake in Chile, just judging by the scale score and not considering that Chile is prepared to withstand such quakes. He must have been really let down to find out that not much transpired as a result of the earthquake. Chile is simply not a sensational story when it comes to seismic activity.

The tallest building in South America, Costanera Center, swayed back and forth, creating a horrifying experience for people up high (see the You Tube videos of the experience). But in the end the building withstood the earthquake. It all makes for interesting conversation the next day but not much more.

By the way, right now would be a good time to buy apartments or condos on higher floors, since they always sell for less immediately after a big earthquake. At any rate, newcomers have little need to worry about surviving earthquakes in Chile. The country is prepared for them. Several newcomers in Viña del Mar were of course startled by the massive earthquake, but I am sure have by now been quite impressed with how their new country has handled the situation.

Postscript: I am updating this post 56 hours later for those that are interested in the statistics. Since the time of the original post we have had another 223 aftershocks, one every 15 minutes. Seven of them (3%) have been 5.5 Richter Scale or over: 5.5, 6.2, 6.0, 6.7, 5.8. 6.0, 6.2. Some of them have been quite jolting, enough to make one start or wake a person up. The total number of aftershocks through 5 a.m. Chile time on Tuesday, September 22, 2015 (128 hours after the earthquake), has been 563, of which 29 (5%) have been between 5.5 and 7.6 on the Richter Scale. On average, we have been having a large aftershock once every 4.4 hours and aftershocks of at least 3 Richter Scale have come every 13.6 minutes on average. For the last week, one has really experienced the earth moving under his feet!

In terms of damage to older buildings, mainly in poorer, coastal villages in the 4th and 5th Regions, 814 were completely destroyed and 1,005 we severely damaged according to this report, with 13,427 people claiming to have been damaged by the earthquakes and tsunami. Just 13 hours shy of one week from the time of the earthquake (6.5 days), another 71 smaller aftershocks above 2.5 Richter Scale had been registered, bringing the total to 634. One week from the time of the earthquake, another 146 smaller aftershocks above 2.5 Richter Scale (almost all above 3.5) had been registered, bringing the total to 699, one every 14.4 minutes on average, although most cannot be felt.

Be sure to become a member of Escape America Now and gain access to the monthly webinar. Details at www.esccapeamerianow.info. Visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country.

Dr. Cobin’s book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service–Chile Consulting–where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they
would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $49.

Dr. Cobin’s sequel book, Expatriates to Chile: Topics for Living, adds even further depth on important topics to expatriates who either live in Chile already or who have Chile on the short list of countries where they hope to immigrate. The book deals with crucial issues pertaining to urban and rural real estate transactions, natural disasters, issues pertaining to emigration and its urgency, money and the quality of life, medical care and insurance, business opportunities, social manifestations (including welfare state and divorce policy concerns), Chile in the freedom indices, social maladies (lying, cheating, stealing and murder), as well as discussion of a few places worth visiting and some further comments about Santiago.

Dr. Cobin’s next sequel, Living in Chile: Key Details of History, Culture, Politics and Places for the Serious Immigrant, goes into detail that mainly those people living in Chile already or serious immigrants will be interested in. It is also of special importance to libertarians that want to know something about the political and ideological undercurrents, past highlights (like having a free port much like Hong Kong or free banking), and people that want practical information and where they can retire on their budget. The travel section compliments the other books in the series so that those that read all three books can be sure to have covered the key places of the country from top to bottom.

This book is chock full of savory details that only a true immigrant and former American with many years of experience would know. Some things are only learned over long periods of time and observation. Take advantage of tapping into Dr. Cobin’s deep knowledge of the country and insights of importance to serious immigrants.

For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books.

Buy Dr. Cobin’s Public Policy books at Amazon.com:

Christian Theology of Public Policy: Highlighting the American Experience (2006)
Bible and Government: Public Policy from a Christian Perspective (2003)
A Primer on Modern Themes in Free Market Economics and Policy (2009)

A Tale of Two (or Four) Earthquakes

On August 23, 2014, central Chile was hit by a 6.4 earthquake, affecting the Viña del Mar, Valparaíso and Santiago metropolitan areas. The epicenter was in the coastal, industrial town of Ventanas, about thirty kilometers north of Viña del Mar. Probably over 10 million people felt a strong quake. According to newspaper reports, the shaking lasted up to forty seconds, causing damage and a tall building fire. While the tsunami warning was discarded, suffice it to say coastal residents of Chile immediately think about tsunamis after any sizable earthquake. Read the news reports from Valparaíso, San Antonio, Santiago (El Mercurio and Las Últimas Noticias), Valdivia and Iquique.

My wife considered it far stronger than the usual tremor and was surprised that the Richter magnitude was so low. The length of time of the shaking also bears an important role in both perception and actual damage, and this earthquake lasted a relatively long time. The photos in the newspapers the next day show goods thrown off store shelves and other minor damage. There was a fire in a tall apartment building and at least one home moved down the hillside nearly two meters. In addition, there were isolated gas leaks and some temporary power and phone service outages.

Two days later, on August 25, 2014, Napa and the San Francisco area of California (an equally populous area) were hit by a 6.0 quake that shook for 18 seconds. The damage in California was far greater than in Chile, not only stuff falling off store shelves but also gas lines breaking and facades of buildings collapsing. People in Chile considered the quake to be a large tremor. In California, the news services called it a “massive quake”—even though four times less powerful than the one in Chile and only shaking for half the time. Things in California would be out of commission for “days” according to reporters. The government in California declared a “state of emergency” in the aftermath for the “largest quake to hit California since 1989.”

According to CNN (with live video footage during the quake), CBS and Fox News, there were 172 people injured and extensive damage to buildings, cracked roadways, “fires sparked by burst gas lines,” broken pane glass, and crumbled walls with bricks landing on parked cars.

Ruptured water mains were reported to be, “hampering firefighters’ efforts to extinguish the blazes.” In Napa itself, wineries and historic buildings were damaged, “sending dozens of people to hospitals.” CBS News added, “Dozens of homes and buildings across the Napa Valley were left unsafe to occupy, including an old county courthouse, where a 10-foot wide hole opened a view of the offices inside.”

In Chile, the next day all was back to normal. (Did the Chilean quake even make the U.S. or European news?) Note that the level of destruction in California did not happen in Chile. There were no serious injuries or massive devastation like in California. The only effects in common were a building fire and the emptying of store shelves.

 

Other First World countries have not fared well in similar magnitude quakes in recent years. In late May 2012, two “major earthquakes” (5.9 and 5.8 Richter scale) and two strong aftershocks (5.2 Richter scale) hit the Modena area of northern Italy, toppling buildings and killing 26 people. On February 22, 2011, Christchurch, New Zealand was hit by a 6.3 Richter scale earthquake that did extensive damage and killed 185 people, half of which died when a six-story TV news building collapsed. The city’s buildings had been weakened by the Canterbury (7.1 Richter scale) earthquake in 2010. The image above (source) shows a cracked roadway in New Zealand after the 2011 earthquake. These earthquakes were horrible tragedies.

However, central Chile’s buildings are frequently “weakened” by tremors and even big quakes as well (including very big ones in 1985 and 2010), but they do not fall as those did in New Zealand. So which country is better earthquake prepared: the United States, Italy, New Zealand or Chile? I think the evidence is clear. In Chile, I feel safe. In other “First World” countries, I worry.

 
Chile has a new sustainable community starting called Freedom Orchard. Check it out. Invest in it, and diversify out of the decaying assets in “First World” nations.
Also, be sure to tune in to Dr. Cobin’s radio program: “Red Hot Chile” at noon (ET) on Fridays on the Overseas Radio Network (ORN). You can also join the thousands of other people who download the shows each month via the archive link on our Red Hot Chile page (recorded show updated every Monday morning).
Be sure, too, to visit AllAboutChile.com for discussion and forums about the country and what’s going on with Freedom Orchard.
Dr. Cobin’s book, Life in Chile: A Former American’s Guide for Newcomers, is the most comprehensive treatise on Chilean life ever written, designed to help newcomers get settled in Chile. He covers almost every topic imaginable for immigrants. This knowledge is applied in his valet consulting service – Chile Consulting – where he guides expatriates through the process of finding a place to live and settle in Chile, helping them glide over the speed bumps that they would otherwise face in getting their visas, setting up businesses, buying real estate, investing in Chilean stocks or gold coins, etc. The cost is $49.
Dr. Cobin’s sequel book, Expatriates to Chile: Topics for Living, adds even further depth on important topics to expatriates who either live in Chile already or who have Chile on the short list of countries where they hope to immigrate. The book deals with crucial issues pertaining to urban and rural real estate transactions, natural disasters, issues pertaining to emigration and its urgency, money and the quality of life, medical care and insurance, business opportunities, social manifestations (including welfare state and divorce policy concerns), Chile in the freedom indices, social maladies (lying, cheating, stealing and murder), as well as discussion of a few places worth visiting and some further comments about Santiago.
For a brief introduction consider Dr. Cobin’s abridged book (56 pages): Chile: A Primer for Expats ($19), offering highlights found in the two larger books.

 

History of Major Earthquakes in Chile

Here is a table of the worst earthquakes in Chile’s recorded history. You can do further research by clicking on this link to the source – History of Big Earthquakes in Chile

Earthquake history Chile