Sunday, February 28, 2010

Earthquake in Chile

An earthquake of 8.8 magnitude hit Chile at 3:34 am on Saturday, Feb. 27th. There are reports of many deaths (in the hundreds) and many more people left homeless! My heart goes out to the people of Chile, and I hope that the world community be as willing to lend them a hand as they have been in Haiti...

The city of Concepcion was hardest hit. The epicenter of the earthquake was in the Maule province, North of Concepcion. The area most severely affected by the earthquake is also the most populated area in central Chile -- between Valparaiso and Concepcion.
I spend much of the 1960's living there, on the coast in Vina del Mar, nextdoor to the port City of Valparaiso. We moved there after the 1960 earthquake -- the strongest ever recorded at 9.5.

I remember seeing some of the remaining damage as a child, but even more so, I remember how acutely aware everybody was of earthquakes. In fact, we were drilled in earthquake preparedness in school before learning how to read and write -- we'd have drills and everybody would disappear under their desks within seconds!

The Spanish word for earthquake is "terremoto", literally "earth shake", and the German word is "Erdbeben" which also means earth shake. I was 3.5 years old when we moved to Chile, and shakely began my first of several bilingual careers. I do remember small earthquakes -- nothing terrible happened, but understandably, everybody around us was terrified whenever the earth shook, and a kid picks up on this. The concept and words "terremoto" and "Erdbeben" therefore, were both very scary to me! One day when I was probably 4 0r 5 years old, I was asked by a elderly German lady if I wanted some "Erdbeeren" (German word for strawberries), and I ran away screaming "NO TERREMOTO!!!!" thinking she had just asked me if I wanted an earthquake!

Nobody wants earthquakes, but they are a fact of life along the Pacific Rim. Here in Alaska, we're also in a very active earthquake and volcano zone, and we too, could get hit anytime (1964 Anchorage got hit with a 9.2 earthquake on Good Friday). We like to think we're prepared, but I'm sure we would also be greatly impacted!

Many of Chile's earthquake experts were helping Haiti when this earthquake struck. I hope the good "karma" of helping in Haiti will be repaid by the world community helping Chile in its time of need.

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