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Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Terremotos

Terremoto is the spanish word for earthquake. There's the Nazca tectonic plate that is along the coastline of Peru and it likes to move around and cause earthquakes, much the same as the North American plate does in California. Most of the biggest quakes happen closer to the coast, especially around Lima. Once in a while a doozy will hit in the mountains though. In 1984 there was a huge one that shook Cusco and the entire Sacred Valley. Buildings fell down, roads collapses, bridges crashed, and a lot of people died.
Some buildings in Cusco are constructed in a more traditional way- with adobe blocks made from dirt and dried in the sun. Others are made in a more European style with more solid concrete. In the spirit of Gandhi and Mandela and all those who have rejected that European = better; the traditional buildings actually hold up better during earthquakes. The adobe blocks have wiggle room and can absorb the shifting earthquake better. Other buildings collapse because they have no wiggle room. Obviously the poorest people get the worst of the deal because they just live in cardboard shacks which stand no chance at all.
The buildings of Hospital Lorena (multiple buildings because they couldn't build up at the time of construction 70+ years ago) are made in the newer, worse way. Therefore today we had an "earthquake drill." Everyone got called out of their work and had to stand between the buildings. They drove an ambulance up a sidewalk to use its loudspeaker system. Several people talked about the need for earthquake readiness for quite a while. There were several patients out there too- in wheelchairs and gurneys and hospital gowns.
I couldn't help but thinking as I was standing there that an earthquake drill is not inherently weird. But it would never fly in the US to call outside over half the staff away from their work. Especially in the morning when rounds are happening. Just another way different countries are different.
As we were waiting I was talking to the peds intern. He was quite surprised to learn we don't do earthquake drills regularly. We talked about where earthquakes are common in the US, and hurricanes and tornados and what drills we usually do in school. Fire drills are apparently unknown here, where at home they are the most common.

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