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April 2014

Chile - Physiography

Chile - Physiography

On April 1, 2014, a magnitude 8.2 earthquake occurred 95 km northwest of Iquique, Chile triggering tsunamis along the coast. This earthquake was located in the Iquique seismic gap. Historical records indicate that a M8.8 earthquake occurred in this area in 1877. The seismicity rates have been increasing in this region from 2001 to the present.

Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, the Inca ruled northern Chile while the Mapuche inhabited central and southern Chile. Although Chile declared its independence in 1810, decisive victory over the Spanish was not achieved until 1818. Chile defeated Peru and Bolivia in the War of the Pacific (1879-1883) and won its present northern regions. The Mapuche were not fully subjugated under government control until the 1880s.

In the early 1970s, Chile was controlled by Marxist Salvador Allende. Augusto Pinochet overthrew that government in 1973 and ruled until 1990. Since then, Chile has increasingly assumed regional and international leadership roles. In January 2014, Chile assumed a nonpermanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2014-15 term.

The climate of Chile ranges from desert in the north to cool and damp in the south. The fertile central valley is bounded by low coastal mountains and rugged Andes mountains in the interior. Chile is one of the highest producers of copper; other natural resources include: timber, iron ore, nitrates, precious metals, and hydropower. The country faces natural hazards of volcanoes and earthquakes, which can also result in tsunamis.

Go to the United States Geological Survey's Earthquake Hazards Program page to learn more about earthquakes.

USGS Earthquake Hazards Program; CIA World Factbook, 4/2014; 3/2014

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