In Chile, terremotos and temblors are a way of life. Here’s the difference, you’ll wake up in the middle of the night to feel your bed shaking, or be walking to class and feel small rumbles in the ground. It’s normal, it’s a temblor from tectonic plate movement or from an earthquake somewhere else. Chile sits on a tectonic plate making it incredibly active for earthquakes.
In Iquique, though, there was an earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale. It was strong, and many people were effected. There was a lot of destruction and afterwards, a large evacuation due to the possibility of tsunamis. Thousands were displaced for the night.
The tsunami alert spread all the way to my home here in Viña del Mar, in the Valparaiso region of Chile, about 90 minutes from the epicenter of the earthquake and about a mile from the beach. Around 9:30 p.m., my host madre knocked on my bedroom door and told me to get dressed – rápido – there was an earthquake and we had to leave the house because of a possible tsunami.
Good news: there has never been a tsunami in Viña del Mar.
Many residents evacuated their homes for safer ground, and one of my chilean friends sent me this evacuation route just in case. At the same time, many residents didn’t, and exchange students were left wondering about the level of threat of a tsunami. According my host family, it was precautionary in Viña del Mar. If the ocean had started to recede, we might have been in a bit of trouble (but not much). From where I live, there would have only been about six inches of water.
There had also been waves of “six feet or higher” reported on the beaches. But, according to another local friend, “this is Chile. [earthquakes] happen a lot. We are used to it, and know how to handle it.”
So around 11 p.m., my family and I returned to our house and I was welcomed to a sea of messages asking if I was alright. I am.
More good news: Classes are cancelled for today. In New Hampshire, we have snow days. Here, we have earthquake/tsunami days.
Welcome to Chile.
terremoto – earthquake
temblor – tremor
madre – mom
rápido – quickly