Tacke describes earthquake
Editor’s note: We reported 2 weeks ago that Maureen Tacke, daughter of Cliff and Sue Tacke of Cottonwood, was in Concepcion, Chile at the time of the earthquake. Following is her account and photos taken from her Blog: MaureensArgentina.blogspot.com She has many additional photos on her blog as well.
We were on the 2nd story of a house with a basement built into the hill, made out of wood as stated before. Everyone in the house left. We were in a vacation house on a lake… called “Lago Lanalhue.” We were with Rodrigo’s 1st cousin once removed, Jaime, and his maid Tere. We packed up some things and all got in Jaime’s car. We were still feeling the earth move beneath us. Rodrigo and I both discussed that the quake was the scariest thing we’d ever been through. Jaime, who is a very laid back character with a great sense of humor, said smirking “That was my third.”
We left because even though we were high above the sea, we wanted to get away in case there was a tsunami. As we left the earth was still moving very frequently. We spoke to many horrified people along the way, and with good luck we had an AM radio station from Mendoza, Argentina… 500 miles from where we were. We heard that they felt it too. They were saying the quake was 8.5, later we found out it was 8.8 on the Richter scale. When we made it to the highway, people warned us it had broken in many places (we were on a gravel road before). We were informed there was an accident, everyone was ok… but someone needed to go to the hospital. They were trying to call the hospital but couldn’t because there was no cell phone service, there was no electricity either… so of course there was nothing they could do. I remember when we discovered there wasn’t any cell service, Rodrigo and I were both worried about our parents. We were thinking, how are we ever going to contact them to tell them we’re ok?? Rodrigo and I were thinking maybe sometime that day, or that night there’d be service… we were very wrong!
Initially, when the quake was happening, I was thinking that it only affected our area, but then we found out that Concepcion, Los Angeles, and even Santiago were all really affected too. The lake “Lago Lanalhue” is near a town called Cañete, about 150 kilometers south of Concepcion. I still don’t know exactly where the epicenter was. Rodrigo’s cousin told us that it was near the lake… but I’ve also heard it was in a lot of other places… who knows, all I knew at this time is it really rocked a lot of people, and broke the road.
We went back to the house after we thought it was safe, and parked in a safe place. We continued to be rocked while we were desperate for information on the radio. Later, Jaime’s sister (who was staying in her cabin next door), came back from a higher place with many people she met there. One family of which was on the beach when the quake hit. He told us there were many HUGE waves. Rodrigo and I thought maybe he was exaggerating a bit. We didn’t have any idea at the time that a tsunami had actually hit Chile and wiped out all of the cute little towns we’d previously been in. The man said he grabbed his family, and drove for the hills… which was where he met Jaime’s sister. We were all worried because Tere (Jaime’s maid) had a daughter staying with her grandmother one block from the ocean, but we didn’t think anything was going to be too bad. We were all praying that they ran for the hills too.
When the sun finally came out, we entered the house to find tons of dishes broken… oil, soap and salt spilled, broken sinks, fallen shelves, etc. We got a majority of it cleaned… “Drank our breakfast” as the Chileans say, then headed to the lake. We found that the Kayaks floated away. Rodrigo and Jaime left to find them, I didn’t think they would because it was REALLY foggy that morning. They returned in about 50 minutes with them in hand.
We then left to bring Jaime’s maid to her family so she could find her daughter. The highways were all cracked. There was one bridge where the end was really broken but still passable. We ran into police that told us they were going to Tere’s hometown (where her daughter was) so we left her with them. We hadn’t heard anything from her until today. We found out from Jaime 5 days later that her house is in the ocean… but her daughter and grandmother survived.
After this we went home and tried to sleep… but couldn’t because the replicas (after-shocks) were really frequent still. Rodrigo and I decided to head to the lake to lay on the docks to sleep there. As we were laying there, I was thinking… here I am sunbathing… Rodrigo’s going to go jet boating… I’m going to go kayaking… and everyone at home is probably so worried, but there’s nothing we can do!
We went to clean more… then to Cañete, but nothing too much happened externally to the town. We found that they weren’t selling gas to just anyone, only emergency vehicles. We also found that the highway to Concepcion was split in 2 in two different places. We decided to stay at the cabin because there wasn’t anything we could do anyway.
I went to the lake to bathe when we got home, we ate some dinner and tried to sleep. Rodrigo and I decided we weren’t going to sleep upstairs because the replicas were still very strong… so we slept on the main floor in the living room. Jaime asked me in the morning how many times I woke up… I told him 23. He said, “That’s about right.”
We ate very well at the cabin because we’d gone to the grocery store on Friday to stock up the cabin for the weekend. The fridge was still a little cold, so the food kept well. We also had plenty of water, enough in the facets to last the day for cleaning dishes and boiling water.
After our breakfast we went to the boat to see the damage around the lake. We discovered 3 houses down from us was a house on the edge of a hill that had a landslide and completely opened the bottom of it exposing its insides. We saw its furniture all along the hill. The nice resort across the lake from us had a cement basketball court destroyed on the edge closest to the lake, and the lodge appeared really shaken up. Other houses lost their foundation, more slides, and so on. It appeared as if we got it really cheap…. And after hearing about all the chaos in Concepción, we knew we did.
We put the boats on land, took their fuel (because we couldn’t buy gas), ate lunch and headed for Concepción. We thought the people were exaggerating the damage on the highways… but they didn’t. The road was cut in some places… Rodrigo didn’t quit biting his nails the entire 3-hour trip! He was driving a really nice car (just like Tia Corrie and Uncle Ed’s)… talk about nerve racking! There were places in the mountains that had trees completely across the road, where they had to cut them for people to pass through. Luckily there were few people traveling… or it would have been a lot scarier.
There was damage everywhere and we knew that it was worse on the inside of the houses. As we were driving we saw many people in tents… tons of places were newly homeless people could sleep. There were trucks with water and food for them… but it appeared as if these people had nothing but hope. There were many families walking toward these camping areas to find a place to stay the night. The more we saw, the more realized it was chaos and a huge devastation.
When we made it to Concepción, we could feel the stress and franticness of the city immediately. I kind of wanted to go back to the lake and wait for people to calm down, but we continued. One company was donating all of their bottled water to the people, however, there were people everywhere robbing too. Grocery stores… pharmacy’s… big stores like Macy’s… computers… cell phones… you name it!
When we finally made it to Rodrigo’s family (not the same side of the family as Jaime), his aunt, grandma, uncle and cousins all met us with tear-filled eyes, so happy to see we made it. As assumed, there was no cell service, electricity, internet, or running water. So we just settled in, told our story, and heard their stories.
One lady, who lived in the neighborhood, had a lot of fish. She must have worked for a fishing company or something. Anyway, it was all going to go bad, so she gave it away to the neighborhood… It was really nice to see the generosity and community there.
That night, we needed to get some more water. So Rodrigo, Sebastian (Rodrigo’s cousin), a friend and I walked with bottles for 3 kilometers to get some water the firefighters were giving away. Rodrigo said, “Had you ever imagined you’d ever have to go look for water?” “No” I said. There we heard the firefighters were running low too… and we knew that many company’s were starting their business on fire to collect insurance (evidently there’s no earthquake insurance… only fire). After we got our water, we hurried home because there was a curfew on the city for 9PM. The only problem was, there was no military to enforce it.
When we made it home, everyone was very frightened because they heard people were going to bombard and rob the neighborhoods in the night. Our neighborhood made barricades so no one could get in. We also wore white so that we could be identified by our neighborhood as a member. There were fires everywhere so that we could all see. There were something like 10 false alarms… nothing happened. I didn’t hear that anything at all happened. I think people were kind of overreacting and paranoid, but I guess better safe than sorry. Rodrigo’s family was trying not to give me much information so that I wouldn’t get scared, but Rodrigo told me everything anyway!
By this time, Rodrigo and I were vey uneasy because we couldn’t communicate with our parents. We had a plan that we’d go to the heart of the city to look for a reporter to call my parents, and have them call his parents. Sounded like a perfect plan, and something for us to do…
I slept pretty well that night because I was exhausted… and there were only 4 or 5 replicas.
After we “Drank our breakfast” as they say here, Sebastian, Rodrigo and I headed with my camera to downtown Concepción. We were sure we could find some way to call them. The radio station was offering their Internet use to send messages to family, so we at least knew that.
On the way, we saw unimaginable devastation. Collapsed bridges, fallen walls, broken streets, and when we made it to the building that fell over, there were TONS of military and reporters. Rodrigo asked some cameramen if they knew anyone here from the States. He told us that AP Radio News was there. He told the guy that I just wanted to call the States to tell them I was alive and ok. He said we could use his phone, but he was almost out of battery. So we knew they were using some type of satellite or something we didn’t have access to. Then Rodrigo saw a really tall, pasty white guy with red hair. He started running after him, but the police stopped him from entering where he was. After he got permission, they let him through. When Rodrigo got to him, he discovered he was British working for a company in the States. He explained my situation to the reporter, the reporter grabbed his Blackberry and asked for my parent’s number. I gave it to him, and he dialed… gave me the phone and it rang!
Dad answered with his typical, “Yelllllllllow, oh hi Maureen, how’s it going there!?” HA! That made me laugh! It was something like 4am there. I was sure that Rodrigo’s parents had contacted them in the meantime, but I didn’t ask. Dad handed the phone to mom and I talked to her for a couple of minutes assuring her I was ok. The reporter filmed me as I was talking to her, but I don’t know if it got broadcasted. Mom was very thankful I got to talk to her… I was too. I really missed my family during all this time.
We left to checkout downtown. There were many buildings ruined, power lines down, military everywhere (thank goodness because someone had to be there to create order again), and super long lines at the gas stations.
We bought a paper and discovered that tsunamis hit and completely destroyed towns along the coast of Chile. Many of which I’d been to in my previous travels to Chile. There were boats on top of houses, everything completely wet, only wood left… and that was in the ocean. We heard that they had nothing dry, and were having a hard time finding a place to stay.
That night, the military came to our neighborhood to ensure the curfew. We all cheered when they came. There were some people however really upset by the military. I personally was very excited because it meant we could rest easy. Although, if you know Chile’s history with the military… they are not thought too highly of, therefore some of the people were really upset they were there. We were all told that if we left the house between 9pm and 12pm the next day, they had permission to take us away. They fired their guns in the air to alarm us that it was 9pm… We didn’t take any risks and didn’t hear anything alarming the next day.
Rodrigo’s uncle (the one we were staying with in Concepción) told me he was disgusted with how his fellow Chileans were acting. I said that would happen anywhere, especially when there’s not military to enforce the rules. Everyone was just frantic.
After we greeted everyone properly, Rodrigo and I rode bikes to Jaime’s house to see what his plans were and when he was going back to Santiago. We were hoping he wanted to leave that day, but he didn’t. There was no way for us to leave without Jaime because there weren’t any busses… nothing. He said we’d leave Thursday, so we went to Rodrigo’s grandma’s house… cleaned up a little bit (it’s still a huge mess), she packed her things and we left. Rodrigo’s grandma left with her son that brought us food because there wasn’t much she could do in Concepción… and it was so chaotic.
Everything was so much calmer since the military came, except for the replicas. We were getting replicas on Wednesday of 6.0, and I heard this morning (Friday) there was a 6.4 or 6.5 replica in Concepcion. One of the replicas, I believe it was 5.9, they sent out a tsunami warning that made everyone frantic. I wasn’t outside to see, I was writing in my journal, but Rodrigo told me that everyone ran as fast as they could on foot… jumped on moving vehicles… all to get away. He said it was like when you step on an anthill. A few moments later they said it was a false alarm. I wish I would have seen it… or gotten some pictures.
On Wednesday, I got to bathe in the lagoon. I was really dirty. It felt amazing, even though it was really cold. Many people were at the lagoon washing clothes, or bathing. By Wednesday night, we had running water, weak, but running water.
On Thursday, after the 12pm curfew, Rodrigo and I headed to Santiago with his cousin Jaime. Jaime had one of his employees meet us with gas between Concepción and Chillan. What normally takes 5 hours with good roads took 9.5 hours. There was devastation everywhere we were, but because Chile is so progressive, they were already busy fixing the roads. I was very relieved to see that.
When we made it to Santiago, everyone was very relieved to see us. I finally got to call my family, and tell my story. Everything here seems normal… Now I’m off to find a job!
I wanted to thank everyone for all of his or her support and prayers. My mom told me everyone was quite worried, and I really appreciate all of your prayers and help. Because of that, none of my friends or family in Chile, or me has been hurt. Only material things lost…
Love to all, Maureen