President García announces national earthquake disaster prevention program

President Alan García launched a national program on Wednesday to develop an earthquake disaster prevention program in Peru following the magnitude-8.8 earthquake that hit neighboring Chile last Saturday.

García said engineers will conduct surveys of buildings at risk of collapsing during a powerful quake. The program will primarily focus on urban centers, including Peruvian capital Lima as well as Arequipa and Trujillo, state news agency Andina reported.

“We need all families to be sufficiently prepared to know what to do in the event of a large earthquake,” said García. “To know which are the safest places from a structural and anti-earthquake perspective, and to reinforce them. This won’t have a high cost but it will prepare us for any event.”

The epicenter of Saturday’s quake occurred offshore about 200 miles south of Santiago and 70 miles from Concepcion, Chile’s second largest city where widespread looting has broken out. At least 800 people were killed and 2 million displaced. The Peruvian embassy in Chile said the displaced includes 1,003 Peruvians living in Chile.

The Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center issued a tsunami alert for Chile and Peru after the earthquake and later extended it to other Pacific nations. The warning was canceled on Sunday.

The president of Peru’s Geophysical Institute, Ronald Woodman, told daily El Comercio that Peru’s current tsunami alert system is ineffective. He said the government approved financing to develop an alert system following the magnitude-8 earthquake that devastated Peru’s southern coast in 2007, however has still not provided the funds.

“In 2009, Congress’ Budget Commission understood the importance of this (tsunami) alert system and authorized the Ministry of Economy and Finance to transfer the funds to Peru’s Geophysical Institute to implement a tsunami alert system,” said Woodman. “The entire year passed and they have not provided the money and I don’t know why. They don’t give reasons.”

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