When the Earth Moves

A fierce earthquake, followed by a tsunami, devastated Chile. But mercifully, the death toll there was far lower than it was in Haiti

Tomas Munita / New York Times / Redux

A tsunami killed some 350 people—almost half the total death toll—in the coastal resort town of Constitucion.

One of the strongest earthquakes ever recorded ripped through central Chile on Feb. 27, tearing up roads and bridges, reducing homes and hospitals to rubble. Many residents on the country's shoreline survived the quake only to drown shortly after, when a tsunami sucked boats and houses into the sea. Describing a "catastrophe of unthinkable magnitude," Chile's President Michelle Bachelet vowed to explore whether the country's tsunami-warning system had failed and, with water and food running low, deployed troops to combat looting, search for survivors and restore order.

Officially, the quake measured 8.8...

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