Monday, March 1, 2010

Chile Earthquake 2010


As you know by now...

SANTIAGO, Chile (AP)-- A massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake capable of tremendous damage struck central Chile early Saturday, shaking the capital for a minute and a half and setting off a tsunami. Buildings collapsed and phone lines and electricity were down, making the extent of the damage difficult to determine.

The quake hit 200 miles (325 kilometers) southwest of the capital, Santiago, at a depth of 22 miles (35 kilometers) at 3:34 a.m. (0634 GMT; 1:34 a.m. EST), the U.S. Geological Survey reported.

The epicenter was just 70 miles (115 kilometers) from Concepcion, Chile's second-largest city, where more than 200,000 people live along the Bio Bio river, and 60 miles from the ski town of Chillan, a gateway to Andean ski resorts that was destroyed in a 1939 earthquake.

We are about 40 miles SE of Santiago in the country and our area (according to El Mercurio) experienced an 8.0 magnitude.

We have had no power or phones or internet really until now. Here is my best recollection of my experience. The well pump went out the day before because of worn ball bearings so we still have no water except bottled. Can't believe that timing...

Friday night we went to sleep as usual around 12:30 but (as is not usual) I awoke in the middle of the night to the bed moving. Having experience the usual small tremors here in Chile from time to time (this is usual every few months), i knew this was different as the tremors grew stronger instead of quickly disappearing as is usual...In the past a small amount of shaking and some rattling that is over in seconds. But this one grew ever louder and stronger and it was as if the earth was undulating and vibrating at an increasing pace.This went on and I was waiting for it to stop-they always stop you see. But it didn't and by the time I knew this was the big one, the house and the ground were moving violently, not slowing, the noise was louder, a roaring of the earth and some of our many books falling, some glass breaking...many noises that I couldn't grasp in my non-Chilean gringa half asleep state. We stayed in bed by that time, knowing it was too late and hanging on to each other for dear life. It was pitch black (we have black out drapes so the nearly full moon won't interrupt our sleep) and the bed was wildly shaking, pitching...and there was so much noise I couldn't take in.And I was terrified but not just of this earthquake but truly I knew for those minutes the untapped, the unleashed power of the earth, of nature. Some will say "God" and "God's will" a lot but I don't see I was better to be "saved" over the over 700 that have died or the millions that are homeless. "There but for the grace of God go I.." -ha I say. It is luck. I hear of the old man clutching his dead wife and I know like the other Chilean older women, she probably went to church and was deeply religious. Chile is 80% or so Catholic-you commonly see people crossing themselves as they pass a church. We were just very, very lucky.

Some irony here, I had wished we lived in Santiago, where the "action" is...or on the coast. It turns out, this was a better place to be.

The house that was built here a couple years ago is perfect, no damage whatsoever. It is cement and brick design with heavy re bar throughout. Now we know how it will fare in an earthquake at least. we had only books toppled (but not the bookcase), the wine bottle on my bedside crashed to the floor(hey, nothing like a glass of good Chilean red wine before sleeping!) and some things scattered to the floor. A little clean up in the morning but really less than you would imagine. I keep my plates and glasses in the upper cabinets and not a one broke so (even though Chileans told me not to), it's okay after all.

There are many people looking for people and cell phones were mostly knocked out. Yes, cell phones and most people here use only cell phones. Google has a people finder here and Allchile is helping with the location of the missing here

Many messages like this... "am searching for info about my father Joop Wisse in Chillan.I am very worried about him, and want to know if he is alright." followed by messages of those looking and then....

"Thanks, the only thing i can do is sit and wait...and thats not easy.

I hope that my dad is allright and that i soon will hear from him.."

Some other assorted bits from stories:

President Michelle Bachelet said Sunday that the death toll had reached 708 and was likely to rise. She also issued an order that will send soldiers into the streets in the worst-affected areas to both keep order and speed the distribution of aid.She called the magnitude-8.8 earthquake “an emergency unparalleled in the history of Chile.”

I saw her speak on TV here and she looked so tired and sad.

Some 100 aftershocks were recorded in Chile of magnitude 5 or larger, according to the NEIC. The largest had a 6.9 magnitude. The Chile temblor's aftershock zone—the length of the affected faultline—stretches for 375 miles, far longer than the 37-mile aftershock zone in Haiti.

The aftershocks, although we haven't felt the 100 but there are many, are still frightening. A rumble, a slight trembling and I stop and wait...and hope...

Earthquakes are caused by friction between tectonic plates, which are essentially shards of the earth's crust. They slip-slide past each other, very slowly but inexorably. Sometimes they get stuck, then jerk forward again, producing a quake. The last big earthquake near this point on the faultline occurred in 1835—when Charles Darwin was sailing nearby—and had an estimated 8.5 magnitude. Since then, the plates at this location have been trying to move past each other, but have been locked in place. Over the ensuing 175 years, the stresses and strains gradually built up.

Some say the stress has been relieved now. Some say other parts will be more stressed. Some say volcanoes (Chile has hundreds) will become more active.

And finally, even though the earthquake in Chile was much stronger in terms of magnitude than Haiti's, it was not as bad for a couple reasons. The ground here in Chile is simply more stable and the shaking experienced was not as violent. the ground beneath Haiti "shook like jello". And what makes modern quakes particularly devastating are megacities located near seismically active zones. "Earthquakes don't kill people, buildings kill people," says David Wald of the National Earthquake Information Center of the USGS. And Chile is prepared to a much larger extent. "

We are organized and prepared to deal with a crisis, particularly a natural disaster," Rodriguez said. "Chile is a country where there are a lot of natural disasters."Calais, the geologist, noted that frequent seismic activity is as common to Chile as it is to the rest of the Andean ridge.

If you know Chileans, you know they have that inner warning system that made them jump out of bed and run outside as we shivered in our bed...

9 comments:

Sara said...

I was not in Chile (I'm heading back on Saturday) but all the stories I've been hearing sound scary. Really scary. Thanks for posting.

Abby said...

Great post. I can't believe you stayed in bed! I had the bolt instinct and ran out of my apartment into the hallway to escape anything falling down. Luckily I had the foresight to take my keys with me so I could get back in after.

That's a good point about the buildings killing people, not the earthquake itself. Chile has had pretty strict building codes since the 1985 earthquake, so that's why we don't see the wide scale destruction like in Haiti. That being said, some builders apparently skirted these regulations as seen in Conce with the collapse of the 15 story building and in Maipu with the building that crumbled even though it was only 5 years old. I feel so lucky to live in a building that is still structurally sound after the quake!

Laura said...

Obviously, my earthquake instincts are... nonexistent lol!

I do wake up at the slightest tremor now...

Sara, DO get up like I didn't...

Vicki said...

Dear Laura,

I am so glad to hear you are all ok. I've been out of touch for some time but when I first heard of the quake, my thoughts were of you and Gloria.

Having been through a 20-minute 6.4, I cannot imagine the terror of what this quake must have been like for everyone. So glad the house withstood the quake...take care, I'll be keeping up with you on your blog as I can.

L.

Vicki

Michael Brust said...

Great blog, you should write professionally for the news! =)

Laura said...

Vicki

Good to hear from you! Let me know how you guys are

Laura said...

Michael-I really should have gone to journalism school or something-but thanks!

I love it that people enjoy what I write.

Joop said...

Hi Laura, Great post about the quake. It so happens that I am the Joop Wisse that is mentioned in your post and I´m happy to tell you that the fantastic people at the emergency center in Temuco were able to contact me by phone and inform my son that I was fine. Still don´t know how they pulled that off, since I was unable to make long distance phonecalls myself. Just stumbled upon your post by accident and thought I´d share.

Laura said...

Joop-that's wonderful. I knew they contacted you and how wonderful you found my blog. Isn't the internet something? The guys in Temuco had a few satellite cell phones I believe. As soon as I got internet back, I was constantly on the computer-brings back memories! And some were good-thanks for the reminder.