Feb 27: One-Year Anniversary of the Massive, 8.8 Chilean Earthquake

Feb 27 marks the one-year anniversary of the massive earthquake that devastated parts of Chile.  It’s also a day I shall never forget as I was in Santiago on that horrible day in 2010.

In early 2010, I lived in Santiago de Chile, the capital, to study Spanish and travel. Thanks to a friend, I was able to rent a gorgeous, fully furnished, one-bedroom apartment on the third floor of a fairly new building in the artsy neighborhood of Bellavista.

I went to bed at around 1230am on February 27 only to wake up at about 330am as a result of my bed moving!  I thought to myself: “hmm, strange sensation…is this what I think this is or I am dreaming?” I quickly realized I was not sleeping as the quake became progressively worse.  At this point the whole building was violently moving from left to right and things were flying off the walls.

Knowing that I should try to get out of bed and under a door frame, I got up only to fall back in it.  I tried again to no avail.  I thought to myself: “ok, I’ll just have to ride this out!”  I began to panic after looking out the window and seeing the street move up and down and watching the street lights extinguish.

The quake went on for what it seemed, a very long time (in fact, it lasted nearly three minutes).  I successfully got out of bed this time in a state of shock realizing I just survived a major quake.  I ran into the kitchen, shut off the main gas valve and looked for a candle.

Since I knew I should immediately vacate the building, I did so.  I walked downstairs to see many people huddled in the yard in front of the lobby.  Amazingly, no one was screaming – just crying.  I was still in a state of shock and decided to sit by a tree. Shortly thereafter, a Chilean family approached me to see if I was okay.  I told them I was fine and we subsequently had a nice chat about life in Chile.

I learned later that we had it lucky in Santiago – partly thanks to the Chilean government’s requirement that all buildings must be built earthquake resistant. Unfortunately, that was not the case further south where a tsunami devastated much of the coastline.  Many more people would have died along the coast had the authorities not instructed people to “head for the hills” after a quake strikes.

I went back to bed and slept until noon.  The electricity came back on a bit later so I turned on my laptop to find that I had received hundreds of emails from my friends asking If I was okay.  Suffice it to say, I felt very comforted!

Despite the earthquake, I remained in Chile another three months and could have stayed longer as Chile is a very beautiful country and the people are fantastic!

Visit my Gallery for more photos of Chile.

Contact me if you are planning a trip to Chile. I’d love to help plan you trip to this spectacular country!

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About Robert Kavalek

Robert Kavalek is a travel consultant who shares his love for traveling the world on theTRAVELER (www.RobertKavalek.com). While his specialties are Paris, Mexico and "digital overload escapes", he can advise clients on any type of vacation. In addition, he writes about travel destinations and travel tips on his blog and Facebook page. Robert has visited 31 countries and territories and hopes to check out at least one new country every year. He currently lives in Washington, DC.
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2 Responses to Feb 27: One-Year Anniversary of the Massive, 8.8 Chilean Earthquake

  1. my. says:

    Yikes, glad you survived it! Was that your first earthquake experience? Even though we get many small quakes here in Southern California, I still get very nervous. I remember this happening and quickly emailed my friend who lives in Santiago. Isn’t it true that a smell gesture of an “Are you okay?” email can have such major comforting effects especially when you’re away from family and friends? – Michelle

    • Hi, Michelle. Apart from some minor quakes in LA, I never experienced a quake like the one in Chile. I was able to use my laptop the following day and was very happy to see tons of message from friends and family. And yes, I really appreciate them! -Rob

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