Saturday, March 24, 2012

Weekend Update: Quakes, Smokes, Apps

A couple days ago, in Valparaíso, I paid a visit to “rival” guidebook author Janak Jiri, who also owns the very pleasant Hostal Luna Sonrisa on Cerro Alegre. As we chatted, I noticed a framed front page from the San Francisco Chronicle dated August 16, 1906 – the day of the massive Valparaíso quake (estimated at 8.2 on the Richter scale) that killed nearly 4,000 Chileans (the image above comes from 1906). That’s about a thousand more than died in San Francisco’s world-famous quake just four months earlier.

Janak told me he bought up the paper – whose masthead is virtually identical today - online for about US$15 several years ago. In any event, it makes a great conversation starter. It’s a measure of the similarities and historical links between California and Chile that the Chronicle, so soon after its own seismic cataclysm, would devote itself to what, for the time, was saturation coverage of a distant event. Even granting the evolution of media in the last century-plus, the huge Chilean quake of 2010 and the Japanese quake of 2011 got relatively less coverage.

Meanwhile, at 4:23 a.m. this morning, my room on Cerro Artillería started shaking, waking me up briefly. I was too sleepy to time the duration but, on rising just before dawn, I learned from the USGS Earthquakes Hazard Program website that it was a magnitude 5.1 event with an epicenter near the town of Los Andes, about 68 km (42 miles) east of here, at a depth of 66.7 km.

The only local report I’ve seen is from the Universidad de Chile’s Servicio Sismológico via the governmental Red Nacional de Emergencia. It rated a V for intensity on the Mercalli scale, with no indications of damage to persons, basic services, or infrastructure, and no suggestion of a tsunami. I would guess that the quake’s depth minimized any damage.

Where There’s Smoke…
As statistics go, it doesn’t get much more alarming than this: according to the Singapore-based Tobacco Atlas, nearly 40 percent of Chilean girls between the ages of 13 and 15 are current cigarette users, along with 28 percent of boys that age. More than half are exposed to second-hand smoke, as roughly a third of all Chileans are smokers. These are among the worst figures in the world.
I have remarked several times before about Chile’s timid tobacco laws which permit, among other things, that restaurants and bars can even decide whether or not to offer non-smoking sections (if they opt not to, they cannot admit anybody under age 18). A distressing number of restaurants, including some of the most sophisticated, do not do so – some of them even put up a sign that says “We welcome smokers and non-smokers,” as if they were doing non-smokers a favor. In this sense, Chile lags far behind Argentina and especially Uruguay in a critical public health measure (it’s worth adding that there are provincial differences in Argentina, which is a federal state).

Patagon Journal
Late last year, I mentioned the launch of the Patagon Journal, a bilingual Chile-based magazine created by US journalist Jimmy Langman of Puerto Varas. Now I’m informed that it’s available as an app for the iPad, and will soon be available for the iPhone and iPod Touch. This is a worthy project that provides all the latest information on Patagonia, particularly on conservation and environment issues.

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