2010 has already seen two of the most violent earthquakes on record and yet, despite the Chilean event being 500 times stronger than that of Haiti, the Caribbean island has lost no fewer than 220,000 lives compared to several hundred fatalities in South America. While each death is a tragedy, global academics, scientists and engineers are already examining the disparity in these figures. Sadly many of our colleagues were also victims of these horrendous natural disasters.

The earthquake that struck the west coast of Chile literally moved the entire city of Concepcion at least 10 feet to the west, Buenos Aires moved by 1 inch also to the west, and the cities of Valparaiso and Mendoza northeast of Concepcion, also moved significantly.

Looking at their respective economies, it is clear Chile is a more prosperous country, with economic output per head of the population more than 10 times greater than Haiti. This has meant that buildings in general are better built, but still many earthquake proof apartment blocks and offices suffered irreparable damage.

Undoubtedly science will play a key role in rebuilding the economies of these countries and will help in better preparing them for future quakes. But as mentioned laboratories across the quake zones have been effected; scientists at several research universities in Chile are still recovering from the massive quake which destroyed many years of valuable research, and saw the loss of a talented young marine biologist.

The worst damage reported was to the University of Concepción, near the epicentre, the quake may have set research teams there back by 3 to 4 years even 10. We have seen more research published from these regions in the last 20 years so this will be a major set back for those scientists in effected zones. The next few years will bring many challenges in recovering data, developing new trends to try and provide solutions but above all, generating grants and funds to ensure work continues.

Some of these funds must also go towards better communications for both quakes and Tsunamis as the people of Chile were better prepared and knew the safest places to go to when the earthquake struck.

Still, a lot of finger pointing is taking place and we've seen recently the sacking of the head of Chile's oceanographic service following the quake and tsunami. We must try to learn additional lessons from these devasting events. A lack of communication and coordination and contradictory orders between a number of key groups in the hours after the quake meant the tsunami alert was not immediately raised.

Our thoughts and hearts go out to all those effected by these recent events and the hope that as a scientific community we can all continue to contribute in some way to making such events less of an impact on human lives to come.

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DOI: 10.1016/S1369-7021(10)70045-6