Tag Archives: chile earthquake

Latin America News Updates: February 26th- March 4th

Thanks again to Lorraine Caputo.


A new film starring Matthew Rhys will highlight Patagonia’s Welsh roots.


Flooding and mudslides around La Paz have killed dozens, left thousands homeless and disrupted travel around Bolivia’s capital.


The planned dam at Belo Monte, in Brazil’s Amazonian basin, has been halted by a judge so that more environmental impact studies can be made.


Chile’s president faces tough questions about reconstruction one year after his country was struck by a devastating earthquake. For information about Chile’s tourism infrastructure after the quake, check out VIVA’s Chile guidebook.


A border dispute with Nicaragua has many in Costa Rica reconsidering their country’s commitment to fielding no standing army.


Billionaire Carlos Slim has opened a new art museum in Mexico City.


Cannons found in a Panamanian river might have belonged to the famed pirate Henry Morgan.


Archeologists working at the Inca site of Vilcabamba have uncovered tombs from a much earlier culture.

Latin America News Update: January 29th- February 4th

Thanks once again to Lorraine Caputo for compiling these links.


Photos of an uncontacted indigenous group living on the border between Brazil and Peru have been released in an effort to protect their traditional lands.

Brazilian lawmakers are looking to enshrine the right to pursue happiness in the country’s constitution.  In other (possibly related) news, a clown was seated in Congress after having been found to be literate.


Despite the earthquake last year, Chile is still at risk for a major quake.


Afro-Colombian hip hop group ChocQuibTown is in the running for a Grammy and has already brought attention to life in the impoverished Chocó region. Check out the single here.


A Cuban woman has turned 126 years old, though the Guinness Book of World Records refuses to recognize her as the world’s oldest person. Capitalist pigs!


The Devil’s Nose train route, a popular tourist destination in Ecuador’s central sierra, has reopened today. Trust us, that’s what this article says.


A rare snowfall has caused major disruptions in northern Mexico.

Mexico will launch a new PR campaign to woo tourists back to the violence-plagued country.

Returning to Chile VII: California Dreaming

Traveling along Ruta I-50, nicknamed the Ruta del Vino, from San Fernando to the coast, you begin California Dreaming. All the leaves are brown in the dozens of vineyards along the way. The road ends at Pichilemu, a surfers’ Eden. And in between, the earth yet trembles.

The main city on La Ruta del Vino is Santa Cruz, 62 kilometers (37 mi) west of San Fernando. This is the capital of the Colchagua wine district. As in many of the towns in O’Higgins Region, Santa Cruz’ adobe architecture crumbled back into the earth. The city’s main church was totally demolished by the quake. Museo de Colchagua also suffered significant damage and is closed. Several hotels and restaurants were also affected.

In the countryside surrounding Santa Cruz and westward towards Pichilemu is the Ruta del Vino de Colchagua where some of Chile’s finest wines are produced. Viu Manent vineyard was shut for several months after the quake, but has reopened. Many other wineries are also throwing open their gates to visitors For more information, check with Viñas Asociadas a la Ruta del Vino de Colchagua in Santa Cruz (Plaza de Armas 298, Santa Cruz, Tel: 72-823199, Fax: 72-825458, E-mail: info@rutadelvino.cl / reservas@rutadelvino.cl, URL: www.rutadelvino.cl).

The villages along Ruta I-50, like Manantiales, San Rafael, Santa Ana, Marchigüe and Alcones, are more wreaked than Santa Cruz. These small towns are largely composed of adobe homes. In many, mediaguas now stand next to the mounds of decomposed dirt and straw bricks.

Then the land begins to bunch into pine-forested hills, the Cordillera de la Costa. This range is caused by the earth buckling as the Nazca plate slips beneath the South American plate. The recent earthquakes are also provoked by this shift of plates. Soon, far on the horizon, the Pacific Ocean and Pichilemu are seen to the southwest.

Pichilemu's iconic ex Casino. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

The road ends at Pichilemu, a popular beach town 3.5 hours south of Santiago where many Santiagueños have built vacation homes here. Some complained that the dunes stringing the beaches were ugly and should be removed. But sometimes Mother Nature knows best. It was precisely because of them the town was saved from the worst effects of the tsunami. Only those areas along the Costanera not protected by the mounds of sand suffered damage. Pichilemu’s iconic ex-Casino, which had recently been renovated to become a cultural center and public library, suffered superficial cracks and one wall is unstable. Some adobe buildings were downed. The hotels and restaurants remained largely unaffected.

Many of the aftershocks continuing to quiver across the region are near Pichilemu. They can be barely felt, but about once a week a near-five-pointer will jerk the land. It seems everybody with Internet access has the Geophysical Department’s website on the favorites, ready to check out if what they felt was another replica or just a truck going down the street. One local bar has concocted its own house drink: Terremoto y Replicas, or Earthquake and Aftershocks.

Try a Terromotos y Replicas. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

But the earth’s continued trembling doesn’t keep the surfers away. Pichilemu is renowned for its three zones of left-break points—Playas Puntilla, Infiernillo and Punta de Lobos—with some of the most consistent large waves in South America. It is gaining popularity as a surfing hot spot among Chileans and foreigners alike both because of its own merits and because beaches further south of the capital were destroyed February 27. Cobquecura, the epicenter of the quake, is destroyed, as are other favorite spots.

Heading for the waves. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

For several weeks after the quake, the sea at Pichilemu was calm. Then it began to swell again. During Quiksilver’s Big Wave International competition May 19-20, waves reached nearly 25 feet. Winners pledged 50% of their takes to the town’s rebuilding efforts. On the recent Independence Day holiday weekend, the road out at Punta de Lobos (6 km / 3.6 mi from Pichilemu) was lined with cars. On the heights laypeople watched the surfers bob on the platinum-blue sea, waiting for one of those big waves to rise.

Most vacationers come to Pichilemu in the summertime. In the off-season, some hotels and restaurants close. But even in the off-season, some come for a weekend escape, to these warmer shores. Even in the dead of winter, the surfers come, boards under arms, for that is then when the waves are best in Pichilemu.

Damage from the February 27 earthquake extends 960 kilometers (576 mi), from Valparaíso to Valdivia. The country’s landscapes have changed, not only in terms of geology, but also what travelers can expect. Accurate information has been difficult to find. V!VA Travel Guides traveled through the zone to compile the most up-to-date information of any guide and is preparing a free post-quake supplement to V!VA Travel Guides Chile. Colin Bennett, a Santiago-based correspondent, checked out the situation in Santiago, Viña del Mar, Valparaíso and the Wine District. Lorraine Caputo, the principal author of the Chile guide, returned to Chile to cover from Rancagua to Valdivia.

Returning to Chile VI: A Backyard View

Not only was the highway between Chillán and Talca wracked, but also the

Destroyed warehouses in Talca’s railyard. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

rail lines. The quake caused the land to sink, destroying the railbed and twisting tracks. Near Retiro, an overpass collapsed across the rails, taking out the powerlines for the electrified train. Many stations are in shambles, including Talca’s station. But on the patio to the right of the depot is the provisionary ticket window and waiting room tent.

Chileans and international backpackers are readying to board one of the

Riding the train. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

thrice-daily trains to Santiago. As well, the famous school-bus-on-wheels to Constitución has been restored as far as González Bastias. All services should hopefully be back on line by the end of June.

Travelling from Talca to Rancagua by train gives a different view of the earthquake’s wrath. The tracks often parallel Ruta 5, lending a good view of that highway’s sunken road shoulders. Along some stretches the going is slow, but still the train continues its northward journey through San Rafael, Camarico and Lontué and other small villages. In the backyards along the way, adobe, bricks and salvaged wood mound. Some families have already erected mediaguas, the small, provisional wooden houses being provided by the government.

A mediagua house. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

The train pulls up in front of the corrugated-metal-framed, empty lot where Curicó’s station once stood. This city, like Talca, was extensively damaged by the quake. The historical center, largely composed of adobe buildings, decomposed with the violent shaking. The hospital is gone, as well as many hotels and restaurants.

Some vineyards on La Ruta del Vino Valles de Curicó suffered damages. Things are totally normal out at Lago Vichuquén. Travelers wanting to check out Radal Siete Tazas, however, are in for a great disappointment. The tremendous shift of the continental plate knocked the river off its course, causing the falls and pools to dry up. Debris and sediment are beginning to dam the river’s new run, causing the lower basin to refill a little.

The Andean range north of Curicó. Photo by Lorraine CaputoNorth of Curicó, the snow-streaked cordillera studs the eastern horizon. On some stretches the train now clips along quickly. At times the train leaves the highway behind, cutting deeper into the farmlands of Chile’s south-central valley. Vineyards and orchards are cloaked in autumnal gold, russet and scarlet. In farmfields cows munch on corn stubble. Away from the concrete of roads and towns, it is easier to see how the earth cracked and shifted that February 27 night.

At San Fernando, the fractured rail depot still stands. The Museo de Lircunlauta and  Hacienda Los Lingues are under repair and will open in the future. The Cathedral suffered a toppled tower and shattered glass in its cupola, along with numerous fissures.

The last stop before reaching Santiago is Rancagua, capital of Region de O’Higgins. The earthquake’s damage was noticeably less in this city, though its adobe buildings also suffered. The Museo Regional de Rancagua and Catedral are both closed due to damages.

Rancagua's damaged Cathedral. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

Near Rancagua, the village of Sewell, the ski center at Chapa Verde and the Termas de Cauquenes hot springs are fine. Reserva Nacional Río de los Cipreses experienced minor changes.

Within the reaches of O’Higgins Region are other villages to explore, like Santa Cruz and Pichilemu. Next we shall travel the Ruta del Vino from the south-central valley to a surfing haven on the coast.

Returning to Chile V: Further into Earthquake’s Heart

All along Ruta 5, the Pan-American Highway north of Chillán, detours become more common. North-bound traffic is re-routed around downed bridges and shored-up overpasses. At Retiro, almost due-east of the epicenter, south-bound travelers get their turn to weave around buckled pavement and disappeared lanes. For kilometers, the countryside is lined with piles of dumped rubble, collapsed adobe farmhouses, barns that collapsed like houses of cards and mangled metal grain silos.

The rubble-laden streets of Talca. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

Talca, capital of Región del Maule, took a hard hit from the earthquake. The streets have a post-battle air about hem. Rubble of the many historical adobe buildings that went down yet piles high.


The destroyed zone is quite extensive, from 8 Norte to 4 Sur and from 11 Oriente to 4 Poniente. There were eight deaths and 4,000-5,000 Talquinos left homeless.

Many institutions, like Conaf, had to find new quarters. Santander Bank met an inglorious fate, with caved-in roof and splintered walls. Sernatur’s new place to hand out its maps and pamphlets is at the post office across the main plaza.

Most churches toppled, including Corazón de María, San Francisco de Pompeya and the Salesian’s María Auxiliadora, among others. The Cathedral was damaged but has reopened. The Museo Bomberil Benito Riquelme and Museo O’Higgiano y Bellas Artes are closed indefinitely. In the interim, The O’Higgiano Museum is showing temporary exhibits across the street at the Casa del Arte Galería Gabriela Pando.

Villa Cultura Hilquilemu was roughed up. It is uncertain when it may reopen. Wineries suffered significant losses of export-quality wines when casks split open. Of the bodegas near Talca, only Viña Balduzzi is open for visits.

The old market …. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

  The Mercado Central bit the dust, but that hasn’t driven its vendors and eateries out of business. Many have set up make-shift stalls behind the ruins, along Calle 1 Norte. About 60% of the city’s restaurants were wrecked. Another hard-hit tourism sector is lodging. Approximately 50% of Taquino hotels no longer exist. Those that are open fill up quickly. Reservations are necessary.




Not only was the highway between Chillán and Talca wracked, but also the rail lines. The quake caused the land to sink, destroying the railbed and twisting tracks. Near Retiro, an overpass collapsed across the rails, taking out the powerlines for the electrified train. Many stations are in shambles. Talca’s station is in sad sorts as well, But on the patio to the right of the depot is the provisionary ticket window and waiting room tent. Trains are once more running northward to Santiago thrice daily. The famous school-bus-on-wheels to Constitución has been restored as far as González Bastias. All services should be back on line by July.

Constitución and other coastal communities were utterly wiped out by the post-quake tsunami. The majority of deaths related to the February 27 event were caused by the tidal wave. In Constitución, no hotels or restaurants are left. Meals are available at the market. Fishing has resumed. Sernatur predicts that by the mid-September Fiesta Patronales, tourism will once more be viable in Constitución and all along the coast. The natural rock formation Piedra de la Iglesia was unaltered.

Returning to Chile IV: Into the Heart of Damage

The road from Chillán to Concepción weaves around destroyed bridges and fractured asphalt. Continually along Autopista del Itata, the main highway to the coastal city, traffic is diverted to other lanes for several kilometers at a stretch. It is quite reminiscent of summertime road works in the US.

Concepción, capital of Región del Bío Bío and Chile’s second largest metropolis, bore much of the brunt of the February 27, 2010, earthquake. A damaged apartment building in Barrio Estación. Photo by Lorraine CaputoTwo and a half months later, the earthquake’s evidence is not apparent as busses enter the city’s outskirts. The greatest damage occurred in Barrio Estación, west of the main plaza towards the railroad station. Fires broke out at the Universidad de Concepción and other points in the city. The year-old, 15-story Alto Río apartment building fell onto its side, trapping people in the rubble. Bridges across the Río Bío Bío were sliced. With the jolt, Concepción moved 3 meters to the west. About 60 people died.

Concepción has done an amazing job of cleaning up the city. The most dangerous structures have been torn down. Others are scheduled for demolition. Behind yellow tape and wooden barricades, workers are repairing buildings that can be salvaged.

Concepción is cleaning up the rubble ... Phot by Lorraine Caputo

... and repairing. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

The hotel infrastructure took a hit, but many are once more hosting guests. Concepción has always been a difficult place to find a room, and it is even more so now with the influx of construction workers. Call before to make a reservation, or drop by the Sernatur office on the Plaza for help. The Catedral, Galería de la Historia and Casa del Arte are open once more.

Even though the sidewalks are a maze of buckled and cracked concrete, it isn’t keeping Concepción’s residents from getting on with daily business. During the lunch hour, employees rush to their lunch dates. When school lets out, hoards of students hang out on the plaza. Street vendors are hawking.  On a Friday late afternoon, friends meet up at sidewalk cafés for a pitcher of beer. Some souls stop into the Casa del Arte to check out the latest art exhibit before attending a benefit concert in the foyer for earthquake victims yet in tent cities.


To the north and south of the port city, other villages were hit not only by the quake, but also the tsunami. Talcahuano suffered great damage, but the Talcahuano-Concepción-Laja is running again. Lota’s museums are scheduled to reopen in another two months.

Besides Región del Bío Bío, the other hardest hit areas of Chile were Maule and O’Higgins Regions, including the cities of Talca, Constitución, Pichelemu and Rancagua. The wine industry in this south-central valley zone was also affected. As V!va moves northward into these towns, we’ll check out how things come coming back together for residents and travelers alike.

Returning to Chile III

Once reaching the northern edge of Chile’s Región de los Lagos, the destruction of the February 27, 2010, becomes more evident. The roadside embankments are streaked with recent landslides. More frequent signs mark the end of highways. Busses stop into villages where lots are still strewn with rubble or buildings are cordoned off.


Travelling north from Temuco, heavy destruction is first seen in Angol, the last town of note in Región de la Araucanía. Here over 500 homes were destroyed. The Cathedral, Iglesia San Buenaventura and other churches, government offices and hospital were damaged. Businesses in the center of town, especially along Avenida O’Higgins, and Caupolicán, Lautaro and Prat Streetswere obliterated, Residencial Olimpia. Hotel Millaray and several restaurants are operating, as is the tourism office and bus terminal.

Los Ángeles likewise experienced significant damage. Reserva Nacional Laguna del Laja is open, but the road between Antuco and the park is cut for several kilometres by a landslide. In the southwest corner of Región del Bío Bío, large fissures opened on the Cañete-Contulmo road along Lago Lanahue. At the present time, situations are reported to be normalized in that area, including in Contulmo and Cañete. Hotels and other services are up and running. Reserva Nacional Nahuelbuta is open. Villages along the coast due west, north of Tranaquepe, were swiped by the tsunami, as was Isla Mocha where the park administration building of Reserva Nacional Isla Mocha no longer exists.

Chillán is the major city along Ruta 5. In this city, the churches and other buildings were wrecked. A few hotels bit the dust, and the remaining ones are often full with itinerant workers labouring on building houses for families who lost theirs before winter sets in. Visitors will have to walk around a while before finding space, or they can consult the Sernatur office. The murals by Siqueiros and Guerrero in the Escuela México cracked. Museums will be closed until December.

The hot springs, Termas de Chillán and Valle Hermoso, were unaffected. Bus service is back on par, though the train won’t be running again until June (consult http://www.terra-sur.cl).

The Air Force Day parade. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

But in this city, residents are beginning to enjoy activities the brisk autumn air, like the Air Force Day parade and an international artisan market.

Checking out the international crafts fair. Photo by Lorraine Caputo

 One of the cities hardest hit by the February 27th earthquake was Concepción, due west of Chillán, a place we shall visit next.

Returning to Chile II

More than two months after the February 27 earthquake that shook southern Chile, few travelers have wandered over the border from Argentina. Like the autumn misty rains, uncertainty about what awaits them swirl. Slowly, though, some are venturing in, to experience the region’s rich natural and cultural diversity.

Temuco's damaged market. Photo by Lorraine Caputo.


Temuco, the next major city north of Valdivia and capital of Región de los Lagos, suffered considerably more. Buildings that were damaged include the municipal market, public hospital, several hotels, the Intendencia where the Sernatur office was, the Museo Nacional Ferroviario and a motley array of homes and businesses. The city is back to speed, though. Market stalls continue to sell artisan crafts and serve seafood meals. The hospital is attending to patients. Sernatur has now moved out to the Museo Regional de la Araucanía (Avenida Alemania 084). The train museum, Museo Nacional Ferroviario Pablo Neruda, is scheduled to reopen the week of May 17.

Another building casualty in Temuco. Photo by Lorraine Caputo.


Pucón is eagerly awaiting the return of tourists. The town’ most famous attraction is Volcán Villarrica in Parque Nacional Villarrica. Totally unrelated to the earthquake is the volcano’s decades-long activity. It seemingly mood-swings being from just mildly seething to spitting out tongues of fire and gas. At present it is on yellow alert, but climbs are still happening every day. When you arrive in Pucón, the volcano may be having a calmer day. Check on conditions when you get there, and remember to keep an eye on the traffic light at the municipality for warnings. Pucón, though, has many other attractions to enjoy, among them bike riding, horseback riding, rafting and over a dozen fantastic hot springs. Hotels, restaurants and other necessities were untouched by the quake.


All the other national parks in Región de los Lagos, including Conguillío, Huerquehue and Tolhuaca, are open. Refuges and trails are in good shape. To the northeast is Volcán Llaima, another active volcano. A four-kilometer (2.4 mile) off-limits zone has been established around its crater. The ski lodge, though, is expected to open this season, as are the other ones in Región de los Lagos. All border crossings were unaffected by the earthquake.

Returning to Chile

In the wee hours of February 27, a massive 8.8 earthquake shook residents of south-central Chile awake. The epicenter. Located off-shore from Maule, was 100 km (60 miles) NNW of Chillán, 105 km (65 miles) WSW of Talca, 115 km (70 miles) NNE of Concepción and 325 km (200 miles) SW of Santiago. Within 20 minutes, a tidal wave swept coastal villages off the map. The damage is astounding, mounting into the billions of dollars. Over 200,000 homes were damaged. The final official death toll rests at 507. Thanks to Chile’s level of preparedness and building codes, more people did not die. 

For weeks afterwards the earth continued to tremble. In recent weeks the frequency and intensity of the aftershock has decreased substantially. The earth changed quite substantially with this jolt. Geologists estimate the city of Concepción moved three meters (10 feet) to the west and Buenos Aires about an inch. The February 27, 2010 tremor rates as the fifth strongest in the world since 1900, when seismic activity could be measured. 

More than two months after the earthquake, southern Chile is still a lonely place. Few travelers have wandered over the border from Argentina. Doubts swirl through their minds like the autumn fog. Is Temuco okay? Can you climb the volcano in Pucón? How’s Valdivia? Santiago? Viña del Mar? Is it possible to sample the wines at the bodegas

Communities are slowly rebuilding. Some cities were slightly damaged, while others will need five years or more to get back to the beautiful towns they once were. The furthest south notable damage was done, is in Valdivia. There, a stretch of the riverfront costanera buckled and cracked. The Corporación Cultural Metropolitano has moved to one block away, at Libertad and Yungay. The Sernatur regional tourism office has its temporary home in the Edificia Seminario, behind the Spanish fortress tower Torre los Canelos (Yerbas Buenas 181, piso 1). Tour boats are departing from aside the Feria Fluvial. This famous fish market and the Mercado Municipal across the road are both functioning normally.

Valdivia's cracked riverfront costanera.

May 22 marks the 50th anniversary of the largest quake in modern history, a 9.5 that destroyed Valdivia and other cities in southern Chile. Valdivia will be observing the event with a month of activities, including conferences, exhibits, oral histories, films and other events. The local newspaper, Diario Austral, already is publishing testimonies of Valdivianos who lived through the catastrophe. On May 25, 2010, a tsunami evacuation drill will be held in Niebla and other coastal villages near Valdivia.

In the rest of Región de los Ríos, everything is tranquilo. Travelers can hike through the nature reserves and soak in the many hot springs in the Siete Lagos region. Huilo-Huilo Biological Reserve experienced minor damage. It is now open, as are its Magic Mountain Hotel and Baobab Hotel. All border crossings into Argentina are open.

Our next stop will be Temuco, Pucón and the other wonderlands of Chile’s Región de los Lagos to the north.

Chile Update: March 4th, 2010

Rescue operations continue in central Chile, five days after it was struck by a massive earthquake. The Santiago Airport is running a limited schedule, though it is hoped that one of the terminals can be reopened on Friday and 24-hour operation will be resumed. In the meantime, shared vans have started transporting passengers to and from the airport again.

The cellular and land-line phone networks are mostly up and running again, except in the hardest-hit parts of the Bío-Bío and Maupe regions. La Autopista Central, Route 5, continues to be repaired, and detours have been laid out where the road is impassable. Bus service is running again between Santiago and cities to the south, including Puerto Montt, Valdivia, Temuco and Osorno, but with a limited schedule (you can see TurBus’s schedule here).

While the situation in Concepción, Chillán and Talca has improved significantly in the past few days, travel to any of the affected regions is still strongly discouraged. Food, water and fuel are still scarce in the region, and the basic infrastructure to support visitors simply does not exist at this time. Volunteers should not travel to the quake-ravaged regions independently, so that they do not get in the way of the medical teams, firefighters and soldiers currently working in the area.

There are a number of ways for visitors to Chile to help, however. The Red Cross is in dire need of money and supplies, as well as donations of blood, for the quake victims. In Santiago, blood can be donated at the Centro de Sangre, located at Ex-Hospital Militar (Av. Vitacura). Material donations can be left at the Red Cross’s warehouse in Ñuñoa (Seminario 937). If you would like to donate your time, the student union FECh is looking for volunteers to collect and load supplies bound for the south. Stop by their office (Periodista José Carrasco Tapia). Similar efforts are underway in Iquique, Calama, Viña del Mar, Valaparaiso, Puerto Montt, Chiloé, Punta Arenas and elsewhere. For more details, check out the Chile Ayuda website (Spanish-only).

Keep checking back at www.vivatravelguides.com for more updates on the situation in Chile.