Quake expert says Chile's building codes saved lives

March 29, 2010 6:53:40 PM PDT
One of the Bay Area's top earthquake scientists is back from Chile with good news about surviving the "big one."

Walter Mooney is a seismologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

He says the 8.8 quake that struck Chile last month could have killed thousands, but many buildings sustained no damage, thanks to Chile's building codes.

The standards are good enough to recommend people there ride out earthquakes if they are in a newer building.

"You don't need to go outside, because if you go outside there may be some bricks and mortar falling and they could damage you," Mooney said. "So, earthquake preparation and earthquake education saved thousands of lives in Chile and that's what we need to do in this country as well."

The death toll from the earthquake and the resulting tsunami now stands at 342, down from more than 800 originally feared dead.