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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Desperately Seeking Loved Ones in Chile

Twitter and Facebook messages through Ustream chat Saturday 3:00 p.m., translated from Spanish.

We're watching from France, it looks really bad.

I need to know if my mom in Concepción is OK!

I need to know about Silvia and Paulo Ruiz in Maipo.

Somebody from Concepción Please!!

Your sister is OK, she got in touch with me.

I'm in Scotland and I need to know about Chiguajante.

Cobquecura is 80% destroyed.

News from Temuco please!

Messages pour in every few seconds. Worried relatives around the globe are casting their pleas onto the waves of social networks in the hope of getting a scrap, a clue, a fragment of information about loved ones. Google launched for people who are looking for relatives.

Hearts are turned toward the people of Chile.

But hydro is out, phone lines are down and infrastructure has taken a huge hit. The 8.8 magnitude quake (8.3 according to Chilean media) has meant deaths, chemical spills, broken bridges, flooded hospitals, homelessness and high anxiety. The Chilean minister of housing is saying many buildings will have to be demolished to prevent further injuries and says she will launch an investigation into why some newer buildings faired pourly in the quake. Search and rescue teams have started their efforts are seeing their first successes.

Any nation hit this hard will be reeling from the impact--and the physical, social and emotional aftershocks. But this is a nation that's much better prepared and organized for this kind of disaster than Haiti, for example. Chileans have dealt with deadly upheaval before, most notably the huge earthquake of 1960 which claimed thousands of lives, and the tremendous societal quake brought about by the military coup in 1973.

On a personal note, my wife and I are on edge waiting for news from the Region 8, the area hardest hit and home to many of my wife's relatives in Concepción. Scenes of crushed cars, demolished buildings and streets full of debris stoke the frustration of the information vacuum. No word yet.

We're hoping that when communication comes it will bring relief, not pain. We know the importance of family. When it comes right down to it, folks--that's all that really matters.

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