About half a million people participated today in a major earthquake and tsunami drill in the Region of Valparaiso, including the port cities of Valparaiso and San Antonio along Chile's central coast.
Sirens began to sound at 10:43 local time (14:43 GMT) in 15 coastal cities in the Valparaíso Region located about 120 km west of Santiago de Chile, starting the evacuation operation that involved more than 500,000 people.
The drill simulated the occurrence of a major earthquake, 8.7 in the Richter scale, and further alarm of impending tsunami along the coast of central Chile. Slowly but securely, thousands of people evacuated low-laying areas of the coastal cities following 493 evacuation routes to about 280 meeting points located approximately 30 meters above sea level, which had been previously established by the authorities and emergency services.
Save the children!
Firefighters, police and Navy personnel assisted the evacuation of babies and toddlers from day-care centers and kindergartens and of older children from schools (video). The rest of the population carried out the drill following the instructions of the authorities.
The drill lasted for about half an hour and ended without incident according to an assessment of the authorities.
"We must never be distracted and should always be thinking about how to care for ourselves. There is no better way to be prepared than a drill," said Interior Minister Rodrigo Hinzpeter, according to BioBioChile.cl. "This was a successful exercise," added the minister.
Frequent seismic activity has continued in Chile since the 8.8 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami of 27 February, 2010, which devastated the coast of central and southern Chile, causing more than 500 deaths and the destruction of infrastructure worth about US$30,000 million.
Valparaiso and San Antonio are two of the main ports of the country and the city of Viña del Mar, located next to Valparaíso, is a renowned resort in Chile. Chile is one of the most seismic countries in the world next to Japan.