Monday, March 1, 2010

Echoes of Katrina, 9/11 in Chile destruction

10-meter waves hit coastal towns near epicenter

Houses with cadavers being marked

Lists of missing loved ones

Some of you know my wife is from Chile. She's heard from some but not all of her family since the massive 8.8 (Richter) earthquake hit the country early Saturday morning. Most everyone we know from Santiago has checked in OK. Only my work colleagues haven't responded to my e-mails, and I hope that's just because they're not placing high priority on their work accounts.

But Santiago is not the heart of the story, even though there was damage and death there. As you can see in the map above from the front page of Sunday's El Mercurio, Santiago was only on the border between "strong" and "moderate" damage.

The heart of the story is in the South, especially the coastal towns. Talca, the site of the gripping AP account on the front page of Sunday's Tennessean, was on the fifth ring off the north side of the El Mercurio map's bullseye. Pellehue, in the photo above, is on the second ring off of the north side of the map's bullseye, and you can see that part of that city went underwater. Concepcion, where my wife's family is from, is on the second ring off the bullseye, to the south.

We've tried to get in touch with family down there, to no avail. All over the country, relatives are calling in to radio stations with names of loved ones who are missing. Lists are popping up online. News reports are still coming in slowly, because communication and travel lines are down.

We've heard that the mayor of Concepcion has said that there are no fatalities in the nearby city of Chiguayante, which is where my wife's maternal grandmother is. That is good news. The stories out of nearby Talcahuano, which is right on the coast and where other family is from, are not as good. And the government says that "with every moment we get worse news."

The confirmed death toll had been under 100 for most of the day Saturday, rising by a few people every hour or so. It's since passed 700, with no word on the number of missing. Some government officials wondered aloud how people swept away by the waters in their sleep would be identified.

Today the Mercurio reports that crews are marking houses with cadavers until equipment can be brought in to remove them.

Over the weekend, I was updating my Twitter account @muybna with news that was trickling in - both in Spanish and English. Fox17 later contacted me through Twitter and interviewed my wife and three of our Chilean friends; that story is here.

I know many of you are thinking of and praying for us and our family and for Chile. You've sent us messages of support on Facebook, you've called, you've texted, and you've e-mailed. My wife and her Chilean friends are looking for a way to channel that support to the people who really need it; if you want to help her with that effort, her e-mail is damarizlamb and then

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