Day 517 [March 3/10] -- A fortunate break for Saito

Today's Report
March 3/10 0800 JST
39°49'S, 73°15'W (Valdivia Marina)

While the day's news from northern Chile is full of stories about looting and fires in the aftermath of Saturday's 8.8 magnitude earthquake, the word from Valdivia continues to be reassuring.

As the entire world has now been reminded, Valdivia was devastated in 1960 by the worst recorded earthquake in history, 9.5 on the quake intensity cale, but this time was apparently virtually unscathed, with no deaths and relatively little damage from Saturday's quake that seismologists say is the 7th greatest in measured strength. Saito-san has sent us some pictures, but only one showed any obvious damage -- a fissure in the pavement near the marina.

So it is with much relief that we can say that there was tremendously good fortune in the choice of Valdivia as a port to have repairs done on BMW Shuten-Doji III. The long, 10 nm section of river that separates the city from the Pacific acted as a buffer against the resulting tsunami that caused extensive property damage, numerous injuries, and some loss of life in less-protected ports only a day or so closer by sea to the quake's epicenter.

After three days the death toll is continuing to climb, and has now passed 720 persons [raised to 800 fatalities later] as rescue teams search the rubble of homes and buildings in Santiago and the even harder-hit city of Concepcion, just 200 miles north of Valdivia. Our deep sympathy goes out to the many people who have lost loved ones and we hope for the continued safety of the survivors of the affected areas.

Had Saito-san just continued for another day and a half and put into the seaside port of Concepcion, instead, there almost certainly would now be a very different story about him and his vessel.

A split in the pavement in Valdivia