Gettin a little bit shaky round here
Trip Start Jan 23, 2010
38Trip End May 31, 2011
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During the two weeks prior we were on vacation (after the intensive
language course but before school starts), and my friend Alma and I had
been exploring southern Patagonia (more details on that later). On the
morning of the 26th we set out from El Calafate, Argentina to Punta
Arenas, Chile where we were scheduled to fly to Santiago at 2:00 am on
the 27th (basically more than 24 hours of traveling por bus/airplane).
Exhausted, we took off from Punta Arenas at 2:30 am ( a little late). At
around 5:00 am, the captain made an announcement saying we couldn't
land in Santiago nor in Concepción (the epicenter of the quake) and we
were therefore turning around and landing in Puerto Montt.
After landing, they finally told us that there had been an earthquake
(at 3:30 am), but that was it! We waited for 4 or 5 hours ( freezing to
freakin death because there was no heat and all of our warm clothing
was in our backpacks, which they wouldn't give us), and after much
chaos, confusion, and small mobs of angry and confused passengers, they
told us that there had been a major earthquake (8.8), that the airport
in santiago had suffered serious damages, that Concepción was in ruins,
and that they were going to give us our luggage. We happily took it,
but then again were left wondering what was going to happen next.
Eventually, we asked the right person and he told us that LAN (the
airline) was going to provide transport and hotels until they were able
to reschedule our flight, and that we were to stay in the hotel and
await further instructions.
Puerto Montt felt the quake, but it was nowhere near as strong as in
Concepción, though we too were without electricity and damages to some
buildings were visible. Thus we arrived, slept (finally after more than
24 hours), and waited. Oddly enough, I was actually more worried about
my mother than anything else, as there were Tsunami warnings for hawaii
as well. How strange that an event that occured in one part of the
world (where I happen to be) could affect another thousands of miles
away where my mother happens to be! Update: my sister told me that my
mom was in good shape, awaiting the tsunami (which never really
manifested) on high ground with binoculars and supplies.
Anyway, the news, the state dept, our study abroad program-todos, told
us that the airport in Santiago would be closed until Wednesday, but low
and behold, the airline called us today (Sunday, the 28th) at around
11:30 and told us to be ready at 1230 as they were coming to pick us up
and we were to fly to Santiago at 3:00! As it turns out, we were one
of two national flights that were permitted to land in Santiago today.
I have no idea why ours was chosen, but there you have it. The flight
itself was strange in that it had that sense of "emergency", with no
assigned seats and no services (like beverages), hurried check in etc,
and the airport was practically empty. Flying into Santiago was even
stranger. There were very few cars on the highways and there was
absolutely NO activity at the airport with the exception of our flight,
very surreal. We disembarked on the tarmac and got our bags right off
the plane. Then they shuttled us to the center of
town and dropped us off and Ciao!
The metro (with the exception of some trains) was functioning and we were able to get home safely and easily.
As far as the aftermath goes, some parts are worse than others. Some
areas of Santiago suffered major damages, others are without electricity
and water, and many are "displaced" in that they have either no way to
return to their homes, no homes to return to, or are simply fearful that
their homes are at risk of collapse. Maggie said she went out yesterday
and there were hoards of people trying to buy gas and supplies, car
accidents everwhere (she came across one with four cars and a
pedestrian involved-still lying in the street).
My house and my host mother are both fine. There are some cracks in
the ceilings and on the walls, lots of fallen and broken objects,
plaster and debris, and parts of the ceiling in the sunroom caved in.
We do, however, have electricity and internet and as most of the
neighborhood does not, it was practically a party when I arrived home!
There were other exchange students using the internet, a young mother
and her baby lying on the bed, Melissa from the down the street, etc,
and apparently people have been coming and going like this all day.
Maggie told me that there have been lots of aftershocks and that the
last one she felt was at 8:30 this morning, so hopefully we are in the
clear now. We have water stockpiled and I have a bag ready to go with
my firstaid kit, flashlight, water etc just in case. As far as
Concepción goes, life there is more chaotic with many deaths, many left
without homes, and widespread looting. CNN reports that the deathtoll is
over 700 (primarily in Concepción, but some here as well), but the news
here reporting over 850.
I can't help but feel lucky that I happened to be in the safest place
possible (the air) when the earthquake occured, that I was fortunate
enough to be on one of the two flights landing in Santiago, and that my
home suffered such minimal damages. My guardian angels were out in full
I hope you all are well and I'll send out some pics/details of patagonia soon.