Earthwatch Institute, Maynard, MA, March 2, 2010 — On Saturday, February 27, 2010, an 8.8 magnitude earthquake hit off the coast of Chile, 325km/200 miles southwest of Santiago. This advisory contains a review of the facts known to date, and offers information for any volunteers who will field on our “Easter Island (Rapa Nui) Cultures” project. There has been very minimal damage on Easter Island, and only on the uninhabited southern coast. At this time, Earthwatch expects to field all 2010 teams on its “Easter Island (Rapa Nui) Cultures” project as planned. As always, safety is our primary concern and we are monitoring the situation closely.
Chilean authorities have confirmed approximately 700 people dead; many more are still missing as a result of the earthquake and the subsequent tsunami waves that hit the country's west coast. There has been widespread damage to major infrastructure, including roads, buildings, power and water supplies, and communication. The cities of Conception, Talcahuano and Temuco have been the most severely damaged, with Santiago, Viña del Mar and Valparaiso also sustaining significant damage. Rescue and reconstruction efforts are currently underway. According to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, there are currently no tsunami warnings in effect; and no further damage from tsunamis is expected to coastal areas that have not already been affected. There have been frequent and sometimes heavy aftershocks, including several measuring above 6.0 on the Richter scale; further aftershocks may continue in the weeks ahead.
US State Department urges U.S. citizens to avoid tourism and non-essential travel to Chile. The UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade advise their citizens to reconsider the need to travel to Chile at this time due to extensive earthquake damage, and avoid all but essential travel to the regions of Maule and Biobío. Santiago Airport has been closed since the earthquake but is expected reopen on March 2, 2010. International commercial flights have been landing in either Antofagasta or Iquique, where passengers are required to disembark for customs and immigration formalities before re-boarding the aircraft for the onward journey to Santiago. Due to earthquake damage at the Santiago airport, flights are landing at an emergency terminal comprised largely of tents. Passengers are advised to check with their airline before travelling to the airport. Once en route, visitors are further advised to follow the advice of local authorities, avoid unnecessary local travel, and monitor local media sources for more information.
Earthwatch is regularly communicating with our partners and project staff on the ground as well as with International SOS, our health and security consultants. The lead scientist for Earthwatch’s “Easter Island (Rapa Nui) Cultures” project, Christopher Stevenson, is in constant contact with the project staff currently on Easter Island who will continue to provide updates on the situation. As stated earlier, we continue to monitor the situation closely.
Earthwatch cannot guarantee anyone’s safety completely. Natural and political disasters can and do happen without warning. Volunteers should read Project Briefings thoroughly and think carefully about their personal comfort level with the field conditions of the project, the volunteer tasks and their own physical and mental capabilities. We encourage volunteers to educate themselves about current conditions in Chile by consulting the following resources:
http://www.internationalsos.com/en/index.htm - Member Login: 14ACPA000075, select “Security Online” from the drop-down menu.
United States Department of State:
https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui/ - Online embassy registration for US citizens
United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office:
http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/travel-and-living-abroad/staying-safe/Locate/ - Online embassy registration for British citizens
Australia Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade:
https://www.orao.dfat.gov.au/orao/weborao.nsf/homepage?Openpage - Online embassy registration for Australian citizens
If you are scheduled to field on an Earthwatch expedition and would like to speak to an advisor please call 1-800-776-0188.