Saturday, 27 March 2010

After the earthquake in Chile

Hubert Linders from the CI Santiago Office talks about the first few minutes.

Early in the morning of Saturday, 27 February 2010, Chile experienced one of the most devastating earthquakes in its history. It was logged as 8.8 on the Richter scale and its epicentre was close to a little town called Cobquecura, in the south of Chile. Just one week before, I had ridden my bike along the coast for a few days, going through the little villages in this region (see photo below). Several of these were hit also by a tsunami and do not exist anymore or are severely damaged, something which still is hard to believe (see photo above).

In Santiago, the earth shook for about one minute and then almost everything went dark. One can see that Chile has a lot of experience with strong seismic movements as only a few tall buildings, mostly recently built, were damaged. Our website shows that consumer associations are already active in helping those affected (in Spanish) while construction companies and property developers keep very silent.

Some old houses, still made with adobe, and churches took the brunt of the damage. But worse was the lack of communication. There was no telephone contact possible, either by landline or mobile phone, for several hours. Just when it was of utmost importance to know where family members, friends or colleagues were and if they were ok, and if not what one could do about it (if anything at all).

I was very lucky to live in an old building that has survived previous earthquakes, so I had access to gas, electricity and water within a few hours. I could even respond to emails of colleagues from the London office I received only a few hours after the news must have travelled around the world. Even though that news could not yet show the scale of the destruction.

On Sunday, the day after the first quake, we colleagues in the CI Santiago office, had all reached each other and were happy to know that, besides some material harm, nothing serious had happened to us. Since then, over 200 aftershocks have taken place, some of them earthquakes in their own right.

Update 30 March 2010: I just went to part of the affected area yesterday and the day before. It is already a lot better now.

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