The wind gusts, rivers flow, lava erupts and the earth slides. Our planet is composed of enormous plates that float on molten magma. In places they pull apart, creating new earth (the mid-atlantic ridge). In others they slide past each other, creating fissures (the St Andreas fault). And in some places they collide, creating mountains and building pressure (the Andes mountain range). Once the pressure becomes too much to bear, the plates move and the earth shakes – last night so did our furniture.
At 3:38 am this morning we woke up to the wardrobe inching its way across our floor with its doors flapping and banging. The ceiling fan above our bed was violently shaking back and forth and it sounded like a giant freight train was passing just outside our window. The lamps toppled over, picture frames fell from the walls and our bed just wouldn’t stop shaking. In fact nothing stopped shaking – for almost three minutes our hotel swayed back and forth like a schooner caught in a squall. Needless to say, we were shaking as well.
The damage assessment this morning revealed that we had been very fortunate. Our room looked like Keith Richards had stopped by for a party yet nothing was broken (including the wine bottles we bought yesterday). The hotel itself, which has only been open three weeks, held up well too. A few shingles fell from the roof and the pool lost a few hundred litres of water, a flowerpot fell and there are a few cracks here and there. Okay, and one wall fell.
But no one was sleeping in that room so it hardly counts.
There are rumours of toppled wine tanks and loose barrels in the wineries that we cannot confirm however we did walk into town this morning, Santa Cruz a 140km south of Santiago, where the main church and the town hall have been badly damaged and some buildings collapsed completely.
As far as we can tell most seem to have been offices, bars and a sushi restaurant so hopefully without any casualties. There are a lot of adobe buildings in the area which according to reports didn’t hold up and there have been deaths but we haven’t seen this ourselves. Some of the bridges and roads are damaged and have been closed but we will try and make our way up to Santiago tomorrow anyway, road conditions and gasoline availability permitting. We have friends there and as wonderful as our rag tag team of survivors here at the hotel is, it will be good to see some familiar faces. Even though our hostess has been incredibly accomodating (baking fresh bread) as well as interesting (she’s the South America correspondent to the Danish magazine Politiken).
In case you’re wondering how we posted this in a place without electricty or water, one of our fellow guests, a Chilean architect, has a mobile modem and graciously lent it to us. It was the least she could do after telling Conor immediately after the quake that new buildings were built with modern anti-earthquake technology but that the second quake, for there always is one, would be stronger.
As we’re writing this there are still tremors happening every 10-15 minutes. Some are softer and some make the lamps sway and the flowerpots tremble. Last night the Nazca plate moved eight metres and it’ll take some time to settle down again. It’s eerie and unsettling each time the plates re-adjust and I don’t blame Rocco, the dog, for taking off like a crazy hound every time another aftershock passes. The dog, the birds and the low rumbling noise are all excellent indicators of imminent shaking. Our world is always in motion, sometimes and some places drastically so.