International

Codes That Save People And Buildings Helped Spare Many In Chile

People camp outside their homes at the Yungay neighborhood in Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. (AP P i

This Santiago building kept standing -- though residents were too nervous to stay. Carlos Espinoza/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Carlos Espinoza/AP
People camp outside their homes at the Yungay neighborhood in Santiago, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2010. (AP P

This Santiago building kept standing -- though residents were too nervous to stay.

Carlos Espinoza/AP

Though the loss of life has been tragic and the damage to its economy and infrastructure has been serious, Chile has appeared to come away from Saturday's devastatingly strong earthquake with much less damage that would have been inflicted on a less-prepared nation.

The country's modern building codes have gotten much of the credit. Just a short time ago, All Things Considered co-host Melissa Block had an interesting conversation with a Chilean-born engineering professor at MIT. And Eduardo Kausel made the point that designers in Chile and other nations that can afford to enforce stringent codes aren't only trying to protect people's lives.

Today's designers and engineers, he says, also want to do everything they can to make sure buildings and infrastructure can survive even incredibly strong temblors — such as Saturday's 8.8-magnitude quake.

"The philosophy of earthquake (building) codes," he says, has changed from what had been a focus in the past primarily on preventing loss of life. Now, "in addition to protecting people, we are also now trying to protect the buildings themselves." The reason? If a country's buildings and infrastructure suffer heavy damage, the economy can be crushed as well — making it much harder to recover.

Here's some of what Kausel had to say:

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Much more from his conversation with Melissa is due on today's edition of ATC. Click here to find an NPR station near you. Later, the as-aired interview will be posted here.

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