First, I’d like to start by saying that I am safe and everything is fine. There have been a series of earthquakes and tremors since last weekend in Chile, with most epicenters off the coast of Valparaíso. This is the first time I experienced an earthquake, so the first big one was a little scary, but since then I’ve been fine.
Chile has a long history of terremotos and temblores (earthquakes and tremors) so Chileans are accustomed (more or less) to this being a part of everyday life. They know what to do when there is a terremoto and where to go if there is a tsunami warning. Many times, they don’t even feel smaller temblores. The best advice that I’ve received about terremotos in Chile is to do what the Chileans do. Look at the Chileans and follow them, because they know what to do.
Last Saturday night, there was a stronger terremoto and los temblores lasted throughout the night. I was in the movie theater Monday evening when the 6.9 earthquake happened. We left the theater and a tsunami alert was issued on everyone’s phone. We evacuated the mall where the theater is because it is only a couple blocks from the shore and everyone walked quickly to the hills. After a stronger earthquake, you aren’t able to call with your cell phone but you are able to send text messages. I informed my program manager and host mom that I was alright and continued to the hills with the rest of the crowd. By the time I got to the base of the hills, the police had arrived and said that the tsunami warning was canceled and that we could return to our houses instead. That night, we awaited another stronger earthquake but only smaller ones occurred. Some houses lost power for a few hours, but that was the basically extent of the destruction. Anywhere else, a 6.9 earthquake would have done more damage, but the Chilean buildings are strong and built to move with the earth. The temblores continued throughout the night and for the rest of the week with slightly stronger ones occurring every so often. The schools and universities were open the next day and life continued.
The best way to prepare yourself is to know what you should do if an earthquake occurs or if a tsunami warning is issued. If you’re in the house, where should you go? If you’re in the university building, where should you go? If a lot of temblores have been occurring, it might be a good idea to have a flashlight by your bed and a bag packed with your important documents, water, and other necessities, when you go to sleep. You can’t predict when an earthquake will occur, but it can make you feel a lot calmer if you know what to do if it does happen.