Sunday, February 28, 2010

My first Earthquake

In June, I posted this:
" However, there are three natural disasters I feel terrified of and trapped by in Valparaiso: Attacking from below, the earthquake; from above, a landslide; and from the side and most frightening to me, the tsunami.
Sure these things may not be especially likely, in fact I took a geology course studying them at the university that ended a couple weeks before I indefinitely moved to Chile, but it didn't really calm my fears much.
Haha, poor professor...the only student not bored and/or asleep is ready to have a panic attack over the material.
But seriously... I'm doomed! I live in a crumbly house halfway up a steep hill on the coast! "

I knew I wasn't freaking out for nothing! My house is on the side of a steep hill, and it is far from new...

Last night I couldn't find my pjs and gave up and slept in my underwear. Everything else was out of my control, but this little tidbit was my major mistake in the whole ordeal. We were in bed sleeping when everything started to shake and the house was making the most terrifying noises. It lasted, what I calculated to be approximately, forever. I ended up staying in bed, where I felt relatively safe and out of harms way, partially because I think I was afraid we were going to have to run outside dressed as I was. When the ground finally stopped shaking, I felt like it took an eternity to gather things I thought I would need and we went outside. My neighbor was screaming bloody murder because she only has one arm and was shaking too much to get the gate open and she was trapped in an alley between tall buildings.
We must have stood in the doorway for a long time because my brothers boyfriend showed up at our door. He had been in a bar in the center when the earthquake hit. Everybody inside wanted out, as light fixtures were starting to fall and the place filled up with dust and dirt, and everybody outside wanted back in because the cables were breaking and sending sparks. We eventually went across the street to a friend's house and hung around outside until her boyfriend and roommates arrived with more stories of the flooding, collapsed buildings, rebellion and looting taking place in the center of Valparaiso.

We spent the night outside until the full moon disappeared. During the rest of the morning as we tried to make up for lost sleep (wearing more street-appropriate pjs), small quivers in the ground sent us bolting out of bed. Completely unsure of how big the earthquake really was (outside we had a discussion about if everybody thought it was even big enough to call an earthquake) I got up in the morning to try to figure out if I should still plan on doing the activities I had committed to for the day. But we had no electricity or internet, and I had no money on my phone to make calls. I also didn't have hardly any real money to make purchases because my first task of the day had been to go to the ATM, which obviously wasn't going to work without electricity.

Eventually my boyfriend woke up in the late afternoon and we went for a walk to scope out the city. Most of the flooding and debris had been cleaned up, but there were a few buildings and houses with a lot damage. I was surprised at how normal the city looked, and although everything was closed because we were without electricity, there were many people that seemed to be going about their normal business.

Being Valpo, we ended up running into many friends during the day just by chance, and everybody we know and have heard from is OK so far. However we weren't able to use the phones much all day so that doesn't say much. I wasn't even able to get a message through that I was OK to anybody in the US until 8 or 9pm. I'm sure they'd been freaking out all day. We recently got internet and electricity back shortly after midnight, nearly a full day after the earthquake. Now that we can finally see the news, it looks terrifying! It seems those in Santiago were lucky enough to have been connected all day.

[edit: I have learned that two friends who were traveling south in the area where the center of the earthquake was are missing. We're hoping it's only the result of poor communication]
The only bad news I've heard among friends so far has been structural.Apparently, the walls came down at a friend's house, the one with the amazing view I posted pictures from before.

Also, one disaster seems to have been enough for my boyfriends old place, where his brother and cousin still live. I posted about my experience when the building set on fire while we were in it almost 3 years ago, but apparently it wasn't able to stick it through this one, as the ceilings and walls were collapsing and my boyfriends brother's going to come live with us for now.

Here are some pictures I took from our walk in the city, which luckily represent the relatively few and far between, though they say there is a lot more damage to the inside of the houses.


Fned said...

WOW!! So glad you're ok! The pictures look quite impressive and even a little scary. I'm sorry about your BIL's place. I hope things get back to normal soon for y'all. Keep safe!


dregonzrob said...

Hi Lydia,
So glad you're ok... first earthquakes are scary enough ... but 8.8 magnitude for a first time is a NIGHTMARE. You didn't mention if anything major (structurally speaking) happened to your house ... I hope not!!
Hopefully things will return to "normal" relatively soon, at least in the cities up north ...

lydia said...

I just learned that 2 friends traveling near concepcion are still missing, though I really hope its just because of poor communication.

Well keep in mind I took and posted pictures of the places with more damage, the majority of everything looks normal. They say many places have damage inside that you can't see though.

Our house is fine, surprisingly. It passed the test.
I think the earthquake did a number on my nerves, though.

Lou said...

Glad to hear you[re okay! I hope your friends are okay too and that they are able to communicate with their families soon. It's horrible not being able to communicate with people at a time like this and not knowing if they're okay! My friend who lives in Canada, who also has a Chilean boyfriend, couldn't communicate with her pololo all day and he was travelling down South near the epicenter. She was an absolute wreak.

How are the houses in Valparaiso way up in the hills? I always imagined that if an earthquake were to hit, those things would fall apart in seconds since they all appear to be just hanging off cliffs and a lot are poorly built.

Natalie said...

Glad you're OK.
Sorry to hear about your brother in law's house, and I really hope you hear from your friends soon.

All good here, although being on the 11th floor was scary, the building moved round quite a lot...

Vina seems to have come off fine, mostly glass and plaster damage, although there are a few condemned buildings on San Martin, older ones. It was pretty calm here yesterday, we even went to the market on the Marga-Marga to do our weekly shop. Didn't know what else to do...

Mia said...

wow - yes, glad you're ok. I was just browsing blogs - my son lives in Santiago and they got power on last night. Scary!!!

lydia said...

Lou that must be traumatizing. I wasn't able to talk to my parents until night time the day afterwards. My cell phone was working but I hadn't received a call so I figured they must either not be worried (maybe thinking I'd be far enough away to not be affected) or they just don't know theres been an earthquake. So my phone message was like
"hi mom, dad. Um... I dunno if you've seen it on the news or anything but there was an earthquake here. We're ok."
My parents said it was the most insane thing they've heard because they had been watching the news, trying to contact the embasy, getting phone calls from the most random people all day (sisters friend in switzerland, a church pastor that remembered i told him 3 years ago i was in chile). Something to laugh about now, i guess.

I haven't gone up the hills to check the situation out. I normally don't go too far up anyway because its not always a great place for a gringa with a camera. I'm assuming there are a number of houses with major problems. But its not like there has been an obvious landslide or anything.

Natalie thanks, glad to hear you were alright. i didnt have any money on my phone to contact anybody. i bet being on the 11th floor was freaky. well at least you know the apt passed the ultimate test!

Mia- glad he's ok. its been kinda crazy here!

Annje said...

Glad to hear you are alright. The after-shocks must be a bit un-nerving!

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