Chile Creates New Emergency System for Future Disasters
By Dialogo February 24, 2011
On 22 February, Chile announced the creation of a new national emergency system, five days before commemorating the first anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated south-central Chile on 27 February 2010, when the possibility of a seaquake was prematurely and mistakenly ruled out.
The new system includes a National Early-Warning Center – which was inaugurated on 22 February – and a plan to create a National Civil Protection Agency to replace the National Emergency Office (Onemi), criticized for its belated reaction to the earthquake in 2010.
“Unfortunately, Onemi wasn’t prepared, and a few seconds were enough for our entire country to realize the degree of confused improvisation ruling in that office,” President Sebastián Piñera said upon announcing the new structure.
Piñera also said that the creation of a national fund for civil protection is under consideration, as is a satellite communications network, in order to tackle the communications problems revealed after last year’s earthquake, which took a toll of 524 dead.
“The new national emergency system is going to be world-class in technology, in procedure,” indicated Piñera, who took office twelve days after the earthquake.
Following the earthquake – which struck at 3:34 a.m. on 27 February – then-president Michelle Bachelet, on the basis of inexact reports from Onemi and the Navy, prematurely ruled out the possibility of the tsunami that devastated the coasts of the Bíobío and Maule regions, in central and southern Chile.