Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Well, it looks like we might be in for an interesting time on the first leg of our journey. The coast of Chile was hit by an 8.8 earthquake on Feb 27th and it threw up a tsunami that belted the coastal cities.

For the first few days it sounded to me like no great big deal, all I heard was that Bachelet refused UN aid, and the Vargases had none of their people hurt or anything, so if they have it under control, then no biggie, right? Well, a few days later Bachelet has had a rethink and the situation is bit more dire than she originally thought it was, apparently.

Chile has lost a huge number of vineyards and wineries and several cities have been smashed. Criminal gangs, some armed with rifles and hatchets have been looting and terrorising the population, prompting President Bachelet to deploy 14000 troops and place several cities under military imposed curfews designed to contain chaos and provide security for humanitarian aid. Perhaps surprisingly, the death toll is only in the 700's. Apparently they have been smashed like this before; Concepcion was flattened by an 8.3 in 1939 (30,000 dead) and then a 9.5 hit in 1960 (6000 dead)- the biggest quake ever recorded in the world. After that they built a lot of new buildings with advanced engineering in case it happened again. Way to go, Chile.

Concepcion, which seemed like a wonderful place to visit has been belted pretty badly and who knows where it will really be at when we arrive in a month's time. Chile is a robust place and they will get back on their feet sooner or later, I just hope they get their act together sooner rather than later.

In other natural disaster news, the rains came early and heavy in Peru's wet season and the rivers of Cusco burst their banks, flooding local villages and smashing the railway line. Mudslides have literally washed the railway tracks away in no fewer than four places, claimed 5 lives and smashed up 2000 odd homes in the area. As another consequence, there is no way to get to Machu Picchu until they fix the railway line, and the tourists who were stranded in Aguas Calientes had to be evac'd by chopper.

The Peruvian govt say that the railway line will be up again in April, but it seems more likely that April is an aspirational tourism department sort of a timeframe. I pity whoever has to deal with Alix if they don't have that train line up again by the time we get there in June.

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