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Preparedness saves lives

What we want to do next in our disaster work is to train the inhabitants of coastal villages and the staff of coastal hotels to develop and rehearse annually risk reduction plans. The Chile experience shows the value.

Still, Chile’s earthquake preparedness clearly saved lives. Laura Torres, 62, and her husband, Víctor Campos, 66, live in Constitución, a city flanked by the ocean and a river. When they quake struck, the earth shook so violently they could not stand.

They crawled to assist their son, who is severely brain damaged; Mr. Campos picked him up, trying to walk as the earth heaved. They ran up into the hills, amid wails from others around.

In the tsunami-prone region, earthquake training had taught them that they had about 20 minutes to make it to high ground, Ms. Torres said, but the roaring of the water, a strange sound like a plane’s motor, suggested that it was barreling in much sooner.

Still, they made it to the hills

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