It was like nothing I have ever experienced before. I don’t know what the actual time was, but I woke up to hear some dogs howling and the feeling that the room was moving, rocking from side to side. I heard a rumble in the distance, but in the dullness and thickness of the sleep that I had just awoken from, I wasn’t able to piece together what was happening. Our bedroom door opened and Johanna (the lady whom we were staying with) said in a calm voice, but a twinge of fear “come guys, its an earthquake”. My initial response was disbelief, surely this cant be right, she is overreacting, the room sways more swiftly and violently, Francis jumps off her bed and starts down the passage, I get up and start running down the passage too. The apartment is now swinging violently, like some monster that has its prey in its mouth and thrashes it from side to side to kill it, the room rocks, swings and sways, the rumbling is HERE, it is in me, it fills me, it comes from everywhere, but nowhere specifically. I fight the room and get to the door, we are on the second floor of the apartment. The stairwell is shifting and moving, glass is breaking, doors are slamming and opening, the rumble gets louder, it fills me with fear, we reach the first floor and are plunged into darkness. We get to the ground floor and huddle together with Johanna’s neighbour in a doorway, the rumble has become a full blown roar, the building is thrashing, the walls are groaning under the strain and i think to myself..”we are going to die, tonight” I also plead with God to make it stop, PLEASE make it stop. The roar reaches fever pitch, the floor is moving as if it were liquid, someone is desperately calling for Rodrigo, I don’t see Rodrigo, it is pitch dark outside, and still the floor moves and still the monster roars. We huddle for what seems to be an eternity and slowly it dissipates, the monster leaves, the quake is over, we are alive, it seems impossible to believe.
I look at Francis, she is white with shock and not breathing, I tell her “breathe honey, breathe” she doesn’t respond, a glass of water is given, she sips but chokes and draws a deep breath and says she needs to vomit, but doesn’t. she says she needs to lie down, I drag her into the neighbour apartment and lie her down on the couch, she recovers slowly. These were the first 3 or 4 minutes of our experience in the quake that shook Santiago in Chile on the early hours of Saturday morning. We slowly went back up stairs to see the mess in the apartment, TV on the floor, glasses thrown out of kitchen cupboards, doorframes are unhinged, but overall the apartment has been undamaged. We get dressed and get ready to leave to go and find Johanna’s daughter, she is with her grandparents in the old part of Santiago and Johanna is worried that the old buildings havent stood up too well to the quake.
The scene on the streets that meets us is apocalyptic. It is like and scene from the “end of the world” movies, only this is real. People are wandering the streets with blankets around them, some are sitting on the pavement with vacant stares in their eyes, others are crying, some are calling out names of loved ones, dogs bark, there is no electricity. We turn down a dark street and the people on the pavement stop us and say that the road is closed, a house has collapsed, we drive through a movie scene of destruction and pain, except these arent actors and this isn’t a movie scene, it is more than real.
We arrive at Johannas in laws and her daughter is fine, she was in the quake but is fine, we are all very happy. We then go to Johannas parents home to see if they are ok and they are fine, it is about 5:30 am. The city is still in darkness, but shortly after we arrive at Johannas parents home, the electricity comes back on, I manage to connect to the Internet and send out the first email I can, it reads ” Hi all we were in the earthquake that hit Chile in the early hours of this morning….”
The reports since the quake have been frightening, Chile has been devastated by the quake:
- The quake measure 8.8 on the Richter scale
- It travelled nearly 800km north and 300km west wreaking havoc in its wake
- It is one of the largest quakes in recent history
- It triggered Tsunami warnings across the Pacific, sadly Chile was the most damaged by the resulting Tsunamis
- More than 90 aftershock have been reported after the initial quake
For more info, read the CNN article here
For some photos from the quake, click here
Below are some photos that were taken by Johannas brother as he and I walked around the Old Santiago area, just 2 hours after the quake. The white specks you see in the pics is the dust that is still falling as a result of the falling buildings