The Chile Earthquake of 1960

According to Britannica, the timeline of the Chile earthquake of 1960 is as follows; On May 21st, 1960 A series of foreshocks, including one of an 8.1 magnitude, warned of the coming disaster and caused major destruction in Concepción. The fault-displacement source of the earthquake extended over an estimated 560–620 mile (900–1,000 km) stretch of the Nazca Plate, which subducted under the South American Plate. The next day, May 22nd, 1960 at 3:11PM an earthquake with a magnitude of between 9.4-9.6 hit approximately 100 miles off the coast of Chile, parallel to the city of Valdivia. National Geographic says the entirety of Chile shook violently for more than 10 minutes. About 15 minutes later at 3:26PM an 80 foot tsunami rose high on the expanse of Chilean coastline that paralleled the subducting plate. The combined effects of the earthquake and tsunami left two million people homeless. Though the death toll was never fully resolved, early estimates ranging into the thousands were scaled back to 1,655. About 3,000 people were injured. Two days after the foreshocks warning of the coming disaster, on May 23rd, 1960 at 6:00AM waves that arrived nearly 15 hours after the earthquake in the Hawaiian Islands—6,200 miles (10,000 km) away—still crested at nearly 35 feet (11 metres) at landfall in some places. The waves caused millions of dollars of damage at Hilo Bay on the main island of Hawaii, where they also killed 61 people. Seven hours later at approximately 1:00PM waves reach the main Japanese island of Honshu. The waves had subsided to about 18 feet (5.5 metres) and laid waste to over 1,600 homes and killed 138 people. In the Philippines, tsunami waves left 32 dead or missing. Though the oblique angle by which the waves approached the Pacific coast of the United States mitigated their force, Crescent City, California, saw waves of up to 5.6 feet (1.7 metres), and boats and docks in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Long Beach were damaged. Three days after the earthquake that caused two million people to lose their homes, on May 25th, 1960 the Cordón Caulle volcano in Chile’s Lake District erupted after nearly 40 years of inactivity. While this isn’t fully supported as directly related to the earthquakes aftereffects, some seismologists think it is to be linked to the quake.

This earthquake affected many different places in the hours and days following the subduction of the plates that the earthquake originated from. These places include all of Chile (There was especially bad effects in Valdivia, Lebu, and Puerto Aisen), Japan (Honshu), The United States, (several cities in California including Crescent City, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Long Beach as well as several islands in Hawaii including Hilo Bay) and the Philippines. This disaster caused roughly 3,000 injuries and around 1,655 deaths. Two million people across the world also lost their homes. Many Chilean cities sustained significant damage, including Puerto Montt, where noticeable subsidence occurred, and Valdivia, where nearly half of the buildings were rendered uninhabitable. Most casualties resulted from the descent 15 minutes later of a tsunami that rose up to 80 feet (25 metres) high on the expanse of Chilean coastline—bounded by the cities of Lebu and Puerto Aisen—that paralleled the subducting plate.

The life effects of surviving a severe earthquake such as the Chile earthquake of 1960 reminds me of Jemisin’s description of the Seasons. While the timeline for this earthquake followed by tsunami (and then possibly causing a volcanic eruption) brings the thought of Jemisin’s choices in the timeline of the end of the world within The Broken Earth trilogy. This real life disaster was preceded by foreshocks the day before the major earthquake hit. Much like how Essun’s connection to the obelisks in times of need before disaster could be seen as a warning of her strength in wielding the Obelisk Gate within Jemisin’s work. The reader experiences the beginning of this new Season along with Essun; starting with the rifting causing majorly destructive shakes across the Stillness, followed by volcanic eruptions, animals behavior changing to become survival of the fittest, and the development of the environmental changes. These environmental changes include ash clouds, acid rain in the desert, and boilbugs; one major issue for survival followed by another and another and another. The rifting combined with the murder of her son Uche cause Essun to be forced from her comm, becoming homeless; much like the disastrous earthquake in Chile caused 2 million people to lose their homes.

Those lucky enough to survive the Chilean earthquake in 1960 and only be left with injuries and disfigurements remind me of several characters in Jemisin’s work. Alabaster succumbs to the magic eating away at him and loses his life after both causing the Rifting and saving the people of Castrima-under from Essun’s power. Essun toward the end of the trilogy ends up losing an arm (and ultimately her life to the power of the Obelisk Gate). She finds herself at first struggling with how to function as an individual with these new limitations including the loss of her orogeny without cost to her body. In the Stone Sky we also re-meet one of the other grits from Syentite’s time at the Fulcrum in The Fifth Season, named Maxixe who during the Season has also been through many adversities and lost both of his legs. While there was not much art created because of the disaster in 1960, there are photographs of the carnage left afterward. I think that it is important to focus on what was left behind after the disaster rather than focusing on what or who is missing because it is only as a group or community that people survive not only the physical effects of natural disasters but also the mental toll. As someone who has never lived through a natural disaster, I feel incredibly lucky to have lived in such a safe area for my entire life thus far. This essay helped focus on the after effects of a real life disaster in order to amplify for us as readers the cost paid for ending the Season in N. K. Jemisin’s The Broken Earth trilogy.

When The Biggest Earthquake Ever Recorded Hit Chile, It Rocked The World :  NPR

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