For some, Chilean disaster hits home

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    A university alumna living in Chile woke up to violent shaking in her room on the 15th floor of the apartment building where her family lives in Santiago. As she heard glasses and bottles breaking, paintings falling and furniture shifting, she was sure the building would collapse. After waiting about two and half minutes for the earthquake to end because the shaking made it difficult to move, her family made the descent down the 15 flights of stairs in complete darkness to leave the building. It was one of the scariest things Carla Noriega ever experienced.

    Noriega graduated from the university in 2008 with a degree in entrepreneurial management. She is from Peru but currently lives with her family in Santiago. Her family and friends are all safe, Noriega wrote in an e-mail. None of them were injured in the earthquake.

    “I thought the building was going down,” Noriega wrote. “I was praying it would stop, but it didn’t. It was one of the worst experiences of my life.”

    A 8.8-magnitude earthquake hit Chile on Saturday morning, the strongest earthquake in Chile in 50 years and one of the strongest earthquakes ever measured in the world. As of Monday, the death toll had risen to 723, according to The Associated Press.

    Noriega wrote that her apartment was a mess, but nothing serious happened. She wrote that her life is almost back to normal and her family has water, electricity and food, unlike the people of southern Chile, who are in need of food and water.

    Noriega wrote that southern Chile had more damage because the people there were not as prepared for the earthquake and tsunami. The buildings in southern Chile are made of adobe, which is easily destroyed, she wrote. Some towns on the coast were swamped by the tsunami not long after the earthquake occurred.

    “They lost their houses, their family, friends and dreams,” Noriega wrote.

    Joaquin Riquelme, a senior mechanical engineering major from Chile, said he has extended family located near the epicenter of the earthquake, but his relatives were all unharmed.

    The walls and windows are cracked in the house on his father’s side of the family, Riquelme said. His father’s extended family is located in Concepcion, near the epicenter of the earthquake.

    Riquelme’s mother’s side of the family is located in Santiago, and they were also safe. Some of his extended family members were living in an apartment building and had to leave until the building can be inspected for safety. Until then, they are staying with another relative who lives in a house because the houses did not have as much damage, Riquelme said.

    “Thank goodness everyone (in my family) is alright, although everyone is learning about other people’s losses,” Riquelme said.

    Many people had a lot of concern for Hawaii when it looked like the tsunami was about to hit, Riquelme said, adding that he hopes people take the same concern and support for Hawaii and translate it to the Chilean community.

    Riquelme is gathering as much clothing and canned food as he can to send to his family in Chile so they can spread it among themselves and others.

    To support the people of Chile, students at the university could send clothes, canned food and money to the Chilean Telethon, Riquelme said. The Chilean Telethon is a charity service that has been in service for many years, he said.

    Chilean TV personality Mario Kreutzberger, better known as Don Francisco, will host a telethon on Friday to raise money for the earthquake’s victims in partnership with the Chilean Telethon and other charities, according to La Tercera, a Chilean newspaper.

    The citizens of Chile would also appreciate letters of encouragement from students, Riquelme said.

    “I’m really happy about the concern and support that everyone is having (for Chile),” he said.

    Lynn Handley, an American Red Cross representative, said the main thing students can do to help the people of Chile is to donate money to the American Red Cross International Response Fund. Donations will be used to buy items that are needed in Chile, she said.

    Students can donate at chisholmtrail.redcross.org, Handley said.

    According to the American Red Cross Web site, it had already responded with an initial pledge of $50,000 to Chile.