The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Fabiola Gutierrez and Chris Kraul, Los Angeles Times

SANTIAGO, Chile — A shallow and powerful magnitude 8.2 earthquake rocked Chile’s northern coast Tuesday, sparking fires, churning up high waves, causing landslides, and cutting power for thousands of people.

A fireman and an elderly heart attack victim were among five people reported dead from the quake, but authorities had yet to assess widespread damage.

Evacuations were ordered in expectation of waves as high as 16 feet along the Pacific coast of Chile, neighboring Peru and elsewhere. An alert was issued for Hawaii, where evacuations were under way late Tuesday, but officials cautioned they did not expect a large wave to hit the state.

The quake struck at 8:36 p.m. local time and was centered about 950 miles from the capital, Santiago, seismologists said. It was triggered from a depth of 12.5 miles, off the coast near the sparsely populated port of Pisagua.

Major damage was reported to Highway A16 between Pisagua and Iquique, a port city of about 182,000 people about 65 miles south. About 300 inmates escaped from a nearby women’s prison, officials said.

With the exception of Iquique, the area closest to the epicenter of the quake is largely desert and sparsely populated. Pisagua has fewer than 300 inhabitants, and the town of Arica, about 120 miles north of Iquique, has about 10,600 residents, according to recent census data. The Arica and Parinacota regions where the quake was felt strongly have a combined population of about 215,000 and are known largely for their mining and fishing industries.

The temblor knocked some residents off their feet and frightened a country where massive earthquakes have killed thousands of people.

“I have a 14-year-old son and the quake was so strong that we couldn’t stay on our feet,” said Josefina Pardo, a 40-year-old attorney in Arica, near the Peruvian border. “My boyfriend passed by to look for us and we went to a secure zone. Police passed by houses to tell people to evacuate. People are very afraid. Everyone is fearful of a tsunami and because we have no electric power. We took our dog with us and the evacuation was very rapid and orderly.”

Adriana Gonzalez, a 58-year old seamstress in Arica said, “Everything moved and the power went out immediately. It had been shaking all week and people immediately started running to get away.”

Nervous Iquique residents gathered in a soccer stadium, where Tatiana Gonzalez, a 45-year-old secretary, told local news media that the earthquake scattered furniture and possessions at her home. She came with her father, who suffers from Parkinson’s disease.

“I was able to sit with my father in his wheelchair, and when we tried to leave, the police passed by to evacuate us to a more secure sector (in the stadium) where there were many families who had just left their homes,” she said. “We are not going to leave this place.”

The Chilean navy’s oceanographic center reported wave heights of five feet in Iquique and greater than six feet in Pisagua.

Much of the coast borders the oceanic Nazca tectonic plate, which is being pushed under the continental South American plate, creating a geologic hot spot responsible for the creation of the Andes mountains.

That pressure can produce earthquakes greater than magnitude nine, the same class of temblor that caused the 2004 Sumatra and 2011 Japan tsunamis.

Southern Chile produced the most powerful earthquake on record, a magnitude 9.5 temblor in 1960, which killed thousands around the city of Valdivia and brought tsunamis to Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines and the U.S. West Coast. A magnitude 8.8 earthquake in southern Chile killed 524 people and destroyed 220,000 homes in 2010.

Swarms of earthquakes off the northern coast, including a magnitude 6.7 shaker that struck March 16, preceded Tuesday’s temblor.

But one earthquake expert who has studied the area warned Tuesday that the quake was unlikely to have relieved the enormous pressures that have built up along the massive fault, which he said had not broken in that area since 1877.

“It’s probably not big enough to have released all of the energy that had been stored up along that locked plate boundary for the last 140 years or so,” said Rick Allmendinger, a Cornell University professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences. “Is this the big one for that area? Or was it a foreshock to a presumably an even bigger earthquake?”

AFP Photo/Frederick Florin

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Eric Holder

The failure of major federal voting rights legislation in the Senate has left civil rights advocates saying they are determined to keep fighting—including by suing in battleground states. But the little bipartisan consensus that exists on election reform would, at best, lead to much narrower legislation that is unlikely to address state-level GOP efforts now targeting Democratic blocs.

“This is the loss of a battle, but it is not necessarily the loss of a war, and this war will go on,” Eric Holder, the former U.S. attorney general and Democrat, told MSNBC, saying that he and the Democratic Party will be suing in states where state constitutions protect voting rights. “This fight for voting rights and voter protection and for our democracy will continue.”

“The stakes are too important to give up now,” said Damon Hewitt, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which for years has operated an Election Day hotline to help people vote. “Our country cannot claim to be free while allowing states to legislate away that freedom at will.”

In recent weeks, as it became clear that the Senate was not going to change its rules to allow the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to pass with a simple majority, there have been efforts by some lawmakers, election policy experts, and civil rights advocates to identify what election reforms could pass the Senate.

“There are several areas… where I think there could be bipartisan consensus,” said David Becker, executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, in a briefing on January 20. “These areas are all around those guardrails of democracy. They are all about ensuring that however the voters speak that their voice is heard… and cannot be subverted by anyone in the post-election process.”

Becker cited updating the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which addressed the process where state-based slates of presidential electors are accepted by Congress. (In recent weeks, new evidence has surfaced showing that Donald Trump’s supporters tried to present Congress with forged certificates as part of an effort to disrupt ratifying the results on January 6, 2021.) Updating that law could also include clarifying which state officials have final authority in elections and setting out clear timetables for challenging election results in federal court after Election Day.

Five centrist Washington-based think tanks issued a report on January 20, Prioritizing Achievable Federal Election Reform, which suggested federal legislation could codify practices now used by nearly three-quarters of the states. Those include requiring voters to present ID, offering at least a week of early voting, allowing all voters to request a mailed-out ballot, and allowing states to start processing returned absentee ballots a week before Election Day.

But the report, which heavily drew on a task force of 29 state and local election officials from 20 states convened by Washington’s Bipartisan Policy Center, was notable in what it did not include, such as restoring the major enforcement section of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was removed by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013. It did not mention the Electoral Count Act nor growing threats to election officials from Trump supporters.

“This won’t satisfy all supporters of the Freedom to Vote Act, but this is a plausible & serious package of reforms to make elections more accessible and secure that could attract bipartisan support,” tweeted Charles Stewart III, a political scientist and director of the MIT Election Data and Science Lab. “A good starting point.”

The reason the centrist recommendations won’t satisfy civil rights advocates is that many of the most troubling developments since the 2020 election would likely remain.

Targeting Battleground States

Keep reading... Show less

Former president Donald Trump

By Rami Ayyub and Alexandra Ulmer

(Reuters) -The prosecutor for Georgia's biggest county on Thursday requested a special grand jury with subpoena power to aid her investigation into then-President Donald Trump's efforts to influence the U.S. state's 2020 election results.

Keep reading... Show less
x
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}