Published: June 4th 2012June 4th 2012
I’ve experienced over 10 minor earthquakes or actually “temblores,” much less intense than an earthquake, since I arrived in Chile, (and my time here is about half over). Most have just been subtle movements. The most memorable ones were first in Santiago, I was sitting outside and had the sensation of being on a boat – a wavelike motion. Meanwhile, Talca and Conti shook pretty hard. The second most memorable was extremely brief but the movement was fast, and the only one that has scared me yet. I was at Cody’s place and all there hopped up and ran out the door since it was close by. Nothing bad happened, but it was a fraction of a taste of what many Chileans experienced at the end of February 2010.
The night of the earthquake was the last day of summer and there happened to be a festival of sorts taking place on a small island in the middle of the river in Conti. The island was lush with trees and only accessible by boat. When the earthquake hit, those responsible for shuttling people to and from the island fled, leaving those on the island behind. Many people perished
there because of this. Today, the trees are all bare and dead from the saltwater wave that washed over and killed them.
Sayuri’s Mom told me how she found the television in her living room wrecked on the floor… on the other side of the room. The violent shaking must have displaced it the 10+ feet or so.
Sayuri recounted that when the earthquake struck, she was on the beach. The tsunami came about 30 minutes later which gave her enough time to run up the hill. I then asked her wide-eyed, “so did you see the tsunami coming in?” to which she replied, “the sound was so horrible that I couldn’t watch.”
Juan was with family that lived up on the hill in Conti. When he went outside to investigate, there were hoards of people in the streets who had evacuated their homes and run up the hill to escape a potential tsunami. He said if you went out there with a flashlight, you might shine your light on a couple of surprises. As it was summer, it was warm, and many people had been sleeping… in their underwear… or nothing at all. In panic, you don’t stop to put clothes on. You just run.
Maria Gloria was at the Talca house sleeping. She said that the first thing she did when the shaking stopped was to get the bathroom in working order. Next the kitchen. All of this she did with a headlamp and candlelight. Ultimately they ended up using their neighbor’s pool water to flush the toilet even though much of the water had sloshed out of the pool with the movement of the earthquake. Can you imagine? When she desired a drink, she poured herself what she thought to be some soda. It turned out to be rum. You never know in the dark!
When morning came, the darkness continued to dominate – not only for lack of electricity, but for abundance of dust in the air. The electricity remained off for 4 days. Meanwhile, they tried to eat everything that would spoil. Unfortunately they lost many of the 20 kilos of berries they had intended to use for making jelly that weekend.
In Conti, many places suffered robberies including the school. While the first floor was filled with water, items from the 2nd
floors were spared only to be stolen. Other businesses such as grocery stores were raided as well. One robber used candlelight to light the way and ended up setting the whole store on fire. It appears that people don’t think under these circumstances. I mean, these are normal working people acting like criminals.
After the earthquake, Politecnico was essentially condemned, but the teachers chose to reject that. Each day, having no other work to do, they went to the school to clean it up. Imagine those professionally dressed teachers dressed in rugged clothes carrying buckets on rubble here and there. Disasters change everything.