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The United States and Chile: Disaster Preparedness and Relief

Fact Sheet
Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs
March 20, 2011


On February 27, 2010 an 8.8 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Chile, killing almost 500 people, destroying 190,000 homes, and affecting nearly two million people.

Already close bilateral relations between the United States and Chile were further strengthened by the $10 million in post-earthquake assistance through the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (USAID/OFDA), the Department of Defense and other U.S. government agencies.

On October 12-13, 2010, more than a billion viewers watched live on television the dramatic rescue of 33 miners trapped for 69 days 2,300 feet underground in the San Jose copper and gold mine in northern Chile. They witnessed an expertly orchestrated event that brought well-deserved international attention and praise to Chile. The U.S. government, most visibly through experts sent by the National Aeronautics and Space Agency (NASA), responded to Chile’s request for technical assistance, and several U.S. companies played important roles in the sustainment and rescue of the miners.

The United States and Chile continue to develop ways to broaden cooperation in this important area:

  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with its Chilean counterpart, Chile’s Emergency Management Office (ONEMI) in March 2011. (text of MOU: English, Spanish)
  • The U.S. Army survey vessel, the Pathfinder, supported post-earthquake salvage and ocean floor surveys. The Department of Defense is working on a proposal to provide twelve mobile emergency operations centers and training.
  • The Director of ONEMI travelled to Washington, DC, to meet FEMA in September 2010 and also headed an interagency delegation of Chilean officials that visited Sacramento and Los Angeles in October 2010 to participate in California's annual emergency management exercise, the "California Shake Out."
  • Chile is one of six countries invited to participate in FEMA’s May 2011 National Level Exercise (NLE 2011).
  • The Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology, a consortium of U.S. universities dedicated to the operation of science facilities for the acquisition, management, and distribution of seismological data, signed an MOU on collaboration with the University of Chile to support Chile’s national seismic monitoring network by implementing a National Science Foundation-funded project to install ten permanent "Globally Reporting Geophysical Observatories" in Chile, which will add to the data used by the U.S. Geological Survey to locate earthquakes.

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