As told by a gringa: Chile earthquake 2015

By Taylor Lifka ’17

Special to The Denisonian

“CORRE COREE, TAYLOR CORRE!”

It was the third night that my host mom was out of town and my host siblings and I were laughing, gathered around the kitchen table over another makeshift dinner, when suddenly the room erupted into chaos.

Screams to run were echoing down the hall as it took me a second to process what was happening. The ground was shaking, the light fixtures clanking on the ceiling; a deep howl came from outside where our two dogs watched guard – pure cacophony, holy earthquake.

Crouching down my host brother engulfed my two sisters and me in a massive hug as we waited for the world around us to be still.
“PASA, PASA, PASA.”

Pass, pass, pass my brother kept saying, the sound of a broken record. Minutes passed by slowly when suddenly the earthquake came to a halt.

Nobody said a word.

My older sister spoke first, making sure we were all fine, but after that the four of us fought for our voices to be heard. Talking over one another we wondered the damage, the magnitude, and would there be an aftershock?

We would soon find the answers: cracked walls, 8.3 on the Richter Scale and over two dozen aftershocks continued to shake Chile throughout the night.

I had been in this beautiful country for nearly two months when the earthquake hit on Sept. 17, just a mere five minutes before I was about to leave the house.

I’d attended the meeting held by my program– “protocol for earthquakes and tsunamis,” but looking back, I saw this as just another mandatory event, nothing more. I could not have been more wrong – the earthquake that hit on Wednesday night just 29 miles west of Illapel was felt all along the narrow country.

My home in Viña del Mar, approximately 140 miles south of the epicenter, suffered very little damage, and most importantly all of my family and those close to me were safe.

What still has me astounded are the statistics of it all – 8.3 on the Richter Scale ranks this earthquake in Chile as the largest to have occurred thus far in 2015, while the largest earthquake to have been recorded in history occurred in Chile as well, in 1960, with a magnitude of 9.5.

Wednesday’s earthquake left this country I have grown to call home with the loss of 12 people.

Considering Chile’s high likelihood for earthquakes, the country has invested heavily in structural reinforcement over the years. Had an earthquake of this magnitude hit a less prepared nation like that of Nepal, the catastrophe would clearly have been much greater.

However, the earthquake and following tsunami warning in Chile on Sept. 17 did force millions of people from their homes, and its effects are suspected to cause upwards of one billion dollars in damage.