The following news comes from Ron (Bosse) and Carolyn Bosse, two Maryknoll Lay Missioners who have worked for
many years in Chile and South America (You can read more about them on the Maryknoll Lay Missioners website). The pictures were sent from a friend of Sam Stanton, Executive Director of the Maryknoll Lay Missioners.
While World news agencies after a few days focus on other things besides the earth quake in Chile, we still have aftershocks, lack of water and electricity and isolation in many areas, homeless people missing people and rubble to clean up.
Bosse and I were visiting El Quisco on the coast. On Saturday Feb. 27 at 3:34 AM the earth quake of 8.8 on the Ritcher scale started. It lasted over 2 minutes. Bridges, tall buildings and houses fell near the epicenter and roads were cut. Electricity was cut off almost immediately. as were communications. Celular phones wouldn’t work Radio and TV broadcasts were out so it was imposible to get information in Chile.
Fortunately Bosse had a small AM, FM battey operated radio and we pulled in an Argentinan station which told us the epicenter and magnitude of the quake which was felt in several Argentinian cities such as Cordova and Neuquén, San Martin de Los Andes and Mendoza. A US monitoring system immediately detected the strength and epicenter of the quake and the Argentinean station broadcast it so we know almost immediately of the immensity of it’s effects.
The first tidal wave came in 2 minutes taking buildings, trees, and people. El Quisco was spared. We even got electric back alter several hours and had water. Some other areas still don’t have water or electric.
People were asked to stay off the roads unless it was really necessary to travel so we stayed put until Tues. When we headed out in the pickup. The route that we planned to take was cut so we had a long detour and drove on roads that were irregular with cracks Many gas stations had long lines, were out of gas or couldn’t pump because of no electric. One place wouldn’t let us use the restroom because they had no water. Another limited the amount of gas you could buy.
It took 2 days to get back to Chol Chol. We stopped in Vilches to spend a night with lay missioners Maruja and Ted Gutman Gonzalez. They had no water, electric or phone service. Fortunately their neighbor had water which they carried down the hill in buckets. Today, March 8th they finally got electric, water and phone service back.
In some isolated areas people wrote messages on the earth with branches or rubble to request water, milk or other aid Air force planes were able to identify areas in need and deliver help.
Route 5 which runs the length of Chile was cut in numerous places with bridges collapsed or unsafe to cross, numerous cracks and foot wide splits in the pavement and in some sections one side of a break was more than six inches higher than the rest of the road . There were numerous detours one of which was more than 70 kilometers in the worse affected area.. Some of the detours were of a single lane which meant long waits while the cars from the opposite direction passed. There were so many cracks that it was imposible not to drive over them at times and it was a challenge to skirt the foot wide cracks.
Chol Chol was spared much damage. We just had to pick up books and can items that had fallen. The Franciscan Sisters’ house was checked by an architect who said it had termite damage and with the quake wasn't safe to live in so they moved into a section of their boarding school for their out of town students. Their motherhouse in Angol is also damaged.
The youths in our parish organized a campaign for donations of un-perishable food items, blankets, clothes to take to the Mapuche coastal town of Tirua for distribution to the people. About 28 houses , and public buildings like the municipality were washed away in Tirua. Although the people in our town are poor themselves-or maybe because they are poor- their response was very generous. One young single mother gave away some of her baby´s clothes to the collection so that when he is older she canl tell him that he contributed. The collected ítems were divided into packs for families then packed into 5 pickup trucks to be given to families in need Bosse and I donated food, diapers and soap.
Seeing that aid had already arrived in Tirua the group continued on and reached 3 communities which had recieved no aid, were out of food and had no electricity or water yet. They were so grateful for the ítems received.
Since there was a curfew in Tirua the Chol Chol group had to stay the night on the ground or in their trucks. The curfew is to prevent the type of looting which occured in some areas like Concepción where the curfew was extended for 2 more weeks.. The military was put in charge of keeping order untill things get back to normal.
There are multiple tremors a day. These are expected for up to 3 months Some ignore them as best they can. Others panic, can't sleep at night. In one coastal area people refused to leave the mountain where they took refuge from the tidal wave including a mother and 8 day old infant even though they have been assured there is no tidal wave expected now. One man in our town is very distraught and sleeps in his car because he feels safer there than in a house fearing another quake. The us experts say it is likely that there could be another quake of 7 or more on the Ritchter near the epicenter within 2 months.
Friday and Saturday a 24 hour Fundraising event on TV called “ Chile Helps Chile” in which people donated to the fund for victims of the earth quake and tidal waves ended raising more than 60 million dollars (double their goal) to help rebuild houses that were destroyed. Estimated costs of reconstruction are US $ 12,000,000,000 dollars. Up to half would be to reconstruct houses.
Midnight yesterday started an official 3 day period of mourning with flags at half mast and those who wish put a flag up in their homes in remembrance of those who died and solidarity with those who lost someone. The names of all the dead will be read out loud.
The psychological wounds will take a long time to heal. We are visiting families to listen and offer support. Some will surely need ongoing counseling.
There are many stories of heroism .In the coastsal town of Iloca a police sargent drove his patrol car down the steets with a loud speaker warning people to move away from the coast. Although the damage from the nidal wave was enormous, no lives were lost.
On the island of Juan Fernandez after the earth quake a 12 year old girl on the advice of her father ran to the central plaza and sounded the tidal wave alarm allowing many to escape the gigantic wave.
In Talcahuano a ship boy decided to take control of a naval ship moving it into open waters after the earthquake saving himsef and 3 companions and saving the ship from damage produced in the base of Talcahuano by the tidal wave.
March 11 the new President, Sebastian Piñera will be installed in an austere atmosphere. The new president is forced to let some of his plans go and focus on reconstruction after this catastrofe.