Chile Tsunamis Swept Away Entire Towns

Giant tsunamis killed thousands in Chile.  The pictures coming in from Chile clearly show that waves over 25 feet tall swept away most of the sleeping population living along the shores in the vicinity of this massive earthquake.  I took some screen shots illustrating the damage.  Looting is also breaking out all over Chile.

Video – Breaking News Videos from


ΩΩThe rupture moved 25 feet.  This is a lot of feet for hundreds of miles of land to shift in less than a minute.  Water is a particular problem in this: it has great mass and doesn’t move in synch with the land as it leaps forwards in some particular direction.  Just like if you fill a glass with water and then suddenly move it, the water will slosh out if you jerk it.


ΩΩThe worst part of it is, there is little you can do to protect people via warnings if the earthquake is very close to the coastline.  The Ache tsunami struck in less than 5 minutes after the earthquake.   The Great Chile Quake and Tsunami of 2010 happened in the dead of night.  This minimized deaths on collapsing bridges and highways but increased the death toll along the shorelines.

ΩΩYesterday I showed previous tsunami damage to the Chile coastline.  Some of it was tremendous showing the possibility of waves higher than 100 feet!  The recorded history of tsunamis is sparse due to the fact that there are often very few survivors.  The land can also subside during a major earthquake.  We see this in Chile.  The houses in the above photo are not below sea level.  They used to be above sea level.  The water we see here is not the height of the tsunami but the standing water afterwards.


ΩΩI fear that the death toll here was 100%.  No one could see this coming, it came too fast and everyone was in bed.  Note the lack of anyone waving for help.  Indeed, all of the helicopter footage taken in the last 24 hours show not a soul in any of these places except where looters moved in from higher ground, poking around in the ruins.

ΩΩThe people standing in these pictures are looters.  This is why they are so casual.  The spotless car sitting nearby has mattresses on top and obviously the car came from outside the tsunami zone.


ΩΩThe tsunami at this place was over 2 stories tall.  The house in the background’s roof peak is an extra story above the window on the second floor.  Everything was stripped from the second story down.  There is no way anyone could have survived this.

ΩΩThese houses are half buried in mud, too.  Again: no sign of survivors.  No footprints in the mud.  Tsunamis are very dangerous because they also pick up lots of debris and simply swimming doesn’t work.  The debris in Ache was so immense, there were a very few survivors who were carried on top of the massive mess and thus, survived.  But this was about 0.1% of the population.  The only other survivors were the people in the mosques.


ΩΩThis jumble of houses left behind after the tsunami swept away the sleeping population is still under water.  This is one of the problems with geology: the oceans do rise and fall but so does the land!  Nothing is ever constantly stable over a billion years, far from it.  The nature of subsidence should strike us all with deep fear in the US.


ΩΩThe entire Mississippi Valley can experience this to some degree!  During the Great New Madrid Earthquake, the Mississippi flowed backwards.  LA can very easily experience significant subsidence in a 9.0 quake event.  So can Oakland and Berkeley California.  As well as Seattle, WA or Portland, Oregon.


ΩΩSubsidence can be as sudden as lateral sifts.  The best building codes on earth can’t save anyone if there is subsidence right next to an ocean.  The ocean will pour in!

ΩΩThe bent trees give us a clue how high the tsunami was.  Namely, nearly tree top levels.  Everything in this village was totally and completely destroyed.  There are probably no survivors.  Looting is breaking out all over Chile.  Some is for food and water but there are a number of looters seeking goods.  The looting in Haiti was less due to the hideous fact that the stores collapsed totally and left little to loot and the looters had few homes where they could park any loot, anyway.

ΩΩChile doesn’t have a placid history.  The police vehicle here is obvious about this: whoever runs Chile has to have heavy equipment to keep the population under control. In the past, the CIA has engineered coups that were very bloody.  There is no harmony between the lower classes and the elites.  Haiti is simply totally poor which is why even the housing of the elites was of very inferior quality and just as prone to collapse as the huts of the poor masses.


ΩΩAnd any elites there have fled if they survived.  In Chile we may see some serious political anger, on the other hand.  The winner of the recent election is a billionaire.  Which is ipso facto, an elitist.  Indonesia had a long running insurrection centered on the city of Ache before the Boxing Day Quake but this vanished pretty much along with over 150 thousand people.  But in Chile, the cities were shaken but not annihilated so I predict a lot of serious social disorders will broil out of this earthquake disaster.


ΩΩUnless, of course, there are good social programs.  Believe it or not, social programs prevent civil disorders.  Planning for disasters means not running things into the ground when times are good.  Which is what the US has been doing.  Also, the military arm of  Chile’s government can concentrate on saving the populace, unlike the US which has sent a lot of our troops overseas.


ΩΩTime is running!  The mothers of Chile need food for their babies and children!  And a big grocery distributor just went on TV there to say, he is not going to bring in any food right now due to looting.  So what will they do?  The desperation we saw in Haiti will quickly turn to rage in Chile.  The Haitians lost nearly everything like the people of Ache but the Chilean people in the big cities still  have homes and thus, will have double, not less, anger, if denied food and water.


ΩΩTotal desperation depresses rage.  Partial desperation increases it.  I still haven’t heard from anyone I know in Chile.  I pray they are safe.

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Filed under Geology

15 responses to “Chile Tsunamis Swept Away Entire Towns

  1. newoaktown

    Elaine, maybe it will be like Argentina post-2001.


    Unrelated to Chile, but interesting this came out fairly soon after the Mossad assassination of a Palestinian leader in Dubai:

  2. david white

    Great post elaine, thank you.

  3. david white

    great writing elaine, thanks.

  4. Dibbles

    This is so heart-breaking.
    I feel so powerless to help Chileans in any way.

    I hope you hear from your friends soon.

  5. Dirtt

    Elaine. Do you think after the dust settles that foreigners who are skilled in rebuilding should lend their manpower to the efforts in Chile?

  6. The Santiago subway system was constructed sufficiently stout to withstand this earthquake, even though the expressways collapsed. Someone in charge of the subway knew what she was doing!

  7. emsnews

    My friends are unhurt! Thank goodness. Their business may be kaput. A disaster for them.

    The subways: that is good news! Glad to hear it. Highways are very vulnerable to earth heaving. Here in winter, the ground freezes down several feet! So this causes endless heaves in roads and highways.

  8. Dibbles

    Good to hear that Elaine.

    I called my young friend here who is from Chile. She finally heard from her father, who is OK. Most of her family has been located and is OK, but her aunt and nephew have still not been heard from. They are in Concepcion.

    Do you know of any fund-raisers in Chile that we can contribute to directly?

  9. Joseppi

    March 1 (Bloomberg) — The earthquake that killed more than 700 people in Chile on Feb. 27 probably shifted the Earth’s axis and shortened the day, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientist said.

  10. Dibbles


    This is something I find credible and believable.

    Combined with unusual solar flares, this is the true natural cause of climate change which has been on-going since the beginning of the earth.

  11. the chilean guy

    thank you Elaine for your smart approach to our earthquake and society. I been to Indonesia and Haiti post quakes and, as you say, time is running before anger. If I can help you to contact your friends let me know, even when I was lucky enough to be outside Chile on Saturday morning. I survived a couple of huge quakes before this one and it takes a while before the rest of us start sending food, medication and clothes. Now they sent the army first at the request of the supermarket owners, so it gives you an idea of the priorities.

  12. emsnews

    Thanks for the offer, Chilean guy. But we are now all in contact with our friends over there and now the worry is economical, not physical survival. Businesses were destroyed or badly damaged. You can’t have anyone come inside unless the building is first inspected, for obvious reasons.

    I wish I could be down there to do the work! I have repaired California homes damaged in earthquakes in the past. You start with checking the foundation and especially the footings. The main worry is if the floor joists are detached or twisted from the sills.

  13. CK

    Just think how much worse it would have been had Allende been imposed upon the chileans back in the day instead of the Chicago school economist’s theories and Pinochet.

  14. JT

    Oarfish omen spells earthquake disaster for Japan.

    I think Elaine might find this interesting.
    Japan next?

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