In the early hours of yesterday morning, Chileans marked the one-year anniversary of the 8.8-magnitude earthquake that killed over 500 people, left thousands homeless and caused upwards of $30 billion in damage. President Sebastián Piñera attended the official vigil in the coastal town of Cobquecura, which was the epicenter of last year’s disaster.
Former president Michelle Bachelet, who was Chilean head of state during the 2010 tragedy and is currently the Under Secretary-General of the United Nations, replied to criticism of a perceived slow response on the part of her administration. In an interview yesterday with Radio Cooperativa, President Bachelet said that her government did everything “humanly possible,” adding that “we made the maximum effort to be with the people, the victims, and to come to the community.” Bachelet said that the only time the government paused during the recovery was to hand over power to Piñera, who assumed the presidency 13 days after the earthquake hit.
Looking forward, President Piñera remains optimistic about Chile’s future. In all, 220,000 homes, thousands of schools and hundreds of hospitals were destroyed by the earthquake. He noted that over half of the necessary reconstruction efforts to damaged infrastructure have already been achieved in one year’s time. Piñera proclaimed that “this is a gigantic accomplishment for all Chileans.”
Coincidentally, around 10:30pm local time yesterday evening, a smaller earthquake—registering a 5.9 magnitude on the Richter scale—hit southern Chile, specifically the Maule, Biobío, Los Ríos and Araucanía regions. No casualties have yet been reported, according to Chile’s Oficina Nacional de Emergencias (ONEMI). Another smaller earthquake followed this morning, around 7:30am local time, in Biobío.