Our First (and hopefully last) Tsunami Warning: The Iquique Quake of 2014
As Experienced in Viña del Mar
By now you’ve probably heard there was a major earthquake of the coast of far northern Chile, near Iquique. This was not necessarily unexpected as after a fairly strong one a few weeks ago they’ve had dozens if not hundreds of aftershocks. This apparently followed a pattern reported before the last major earthquake in that area in 1877. The good news is that so far the area seems to have relatively dodged a bullet. Obviously any deaths, injuries and damage is bad, but 6 deaths after an 8.2 earthquake and a tsunami of only about 6 feet is a lot better than it could have been. Tens of thousands are still evacuated, landslides have cut off some areas, and there are reports of destroyed houses in Arica, but again this is much better than we feared when we saw how strong an earthquake it had been.This map shows Iquique to the north & Viña to the south. Hope it shows up well for you, Google’s unnecessary extra stuff often gets in the way, but you can drag the map if you need to.
Our First Tsunami Warning
As for us, we didn’t feel a thing. Remember, Chile is a VERY long country, and the earthquake was more than 1,000 miles away. We did, however, get a phone call from the front desk telling us there was a tsunami warning and we should go up to the roof, which we did. We had begun to suspect something was up when we kept hearing sirens, lots of them, and I saw a firetruck heading towards the beach. Then Cecile checked her e-mail and saw that she had gotten a tsunami alert, and we checked online and discovered what had happened. A couple of minutes after that, we got the phone call, got Joel up, put on shoes, Cecile sent out a quick e-mail to the family and I posted a quick Facebook update, and we headed upstairs.
It was kind of nice up there, there’s a great view which I hadn’t checked out at night before, and it wasn’t too cold. We could see the stream of cars heading for the evacuation routes, and hear the loudspeakers as the police continued to circulate announcing the warning & evacuation. Eventually Cecile decided to check on her fellow Fulbrighter in building, Tim who lives on the 15th floor. He invited us down, so we got to hang out there for awhile, watch the Chilean news reports, and get back online. The Chilean news was similar to U.S. news during a disaster, lots of sound and fury but nothing really to report. The kept looping the same video of people evacuating, but had not real information from the affected areas as cell service was out and they’re very remote. Looking out the windows we could see that there was very little traffic compared to what would normally be occurring. Eventually we started getting official reports of the size and timing of the tsunamis, and eventually figured we were in the clear, even though through an excess of caution the warning was still on for us for another half hour or so. But we wanted to get Joel back into bed and it really seemed completely safe, we’re on the fourth floor after all, so we came back home and eventually went to bed.
Earthquake & Tsunami Aftermath
First thing in the morning we of course started checking the news, and I was surprised by what seemed to be relatively little damage. Just like with tornadoes in the Midwest, people take earthquakes and tsunamis seriously around here, and I think with the warnings they had had for the last few weeks, but people up there were probably ready to go anytime. Still, early reports indicate that if it had been a little closer to land, it could have been much worse. I’ve been impressed with the response I’ve seen from the government, both local and national, here and up north. And our phone call from the front desk is another indication of how seriously things are taken here, and we were pleased to get it. Chile is one of the most seismically active countries in the world, so we knew this was a possibility coming down here. We’ve felt one earthquake, which I wrote about here, and there have been many more in our area. We hope this is the last of the big ones for Iquique, and for us to, but just in case we’ll keep our emergency bag handy.
The Valparaiso Fish Market
We had been planning to go with Tim & his significant other Melanie to the fish market today, and decided to keep with those plans. Joel was quite grumpy getting up from his late night, and Cecile discovered that classes were cancelled at the university. Apparently this isn’t unusual; while our evacuation was up to the roof, others evacuate farther away, to stay with friends and relatives in Santiago, say. So we decided that we could keep Joel home from school and give him Peoria-style homework to do instead. Eventually we found out that Joel’s school was cancelled as well, although I didn’t see that message when I checked the website earlier in the morning.
So we all ate and got dressed and headed downstairs to meet Tim & Melanie only to discover that they weren’t going to be able to make it. We headed out anyway, although Cecile pointed out that with the tsunami, there might not be much action at the fish market. Presumably they do most of their fishing at night to have things ready in the morning, and also presumably they wouldn’t go out in a tsunami. And sure enough, when we got there there was very little going on. We did find one person selling some fish, and as we needed it for dinner tonight, bought some. While it was being cleaned Joel & I headed to the docks, which we could actually walk on because there was no boat activity (see here to find out what’s normally going on on the docks).
The sea lions, pelicans and seagulls were very interested to see us walking on the docks. I assume they get breakfast from the fisher folk, and thus hadn’t had any today. The way they were acting I wonder if they’ve gotten lazy and forgotten how to fish for themselves. Anyway, I suggested that we could at least feed them the parts of the fish we weren’t using, so we went to get Cecile, who scooped it all up in an extra bag we had, and threw it down to them. There was a lot of action for a little food, as we can see in the video.
And then we came home. I went to the feria as we were dangerously low on fruits and vegetables (although we still had palta, so all was not lost) and came back with many kilos of food, which still need cleaning. But that about wraps up our earthquake and tsunami report. Thanks for all the good wishes and being concerned, and we’ll keep in touch.