Chile has 597 seismic detectors sitting in warehouses

Published November 12, 2012


The Chilean government has allowed 597 devices for detecting seismic events to sit in warehouses for the past 2 1/2 years, opposition lawmakers said Monday.

Chile, with 16.6 million people, is the world's most seismically active country, but lacks an adequate detection network.

Christian Democratic legislators Matias Walker and Ricardo Rincon said that they asked the Controller General's Office for a statement about the warehousing of 597 seismic detectors acquired toward the end of the 2006-2010 administration of President Michelle Bachelet.

Walker told reporters that the equipment can detect the location of earthquake epicenters and, thus, had it been installed, could have been able to provide warning about potential tsunamis along Chile's long coastline.

He added that the funds to purchase the 597 detectors were approved in the 2008 budget, and that amount was increased in subsequent years to $18 million, in total, so that the equipment could be installed throughout Chile.

He said that the system would have been allocated to the Seismological Service of the University of Chile although the Onemi emergency management agency had asked the government to be able to operate them, "but currently they are sitting in a warehouse."

Rincon said that the Controller General's Office should investigate the acquisition of the machines, given that their installation has been delayed by at least four years, which suggests that whenever they are actually put into operation they will already be obsolete.

The last big earthquake to hit Chile was a magnitude-8.8 monster that struck on Feb. 27, 2010.

The quake - and a subsequent tsunami - killed more than 500 people, left 800,000 with property damage and resulted in economic losses of $30 billion. EFE