Our second earthquake in Iquique


Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 15 seconds.

In the first issue of diariesof we tell about our experience in Iquique during the terrifying earthquake of 8.2 in the Richter scale that hit the town during our stay there. We will not disclose that narrative here but I would like to tell you about the second night, when another earthquake hit Iquique and the town had to be evacuated all over again. I was terrified after the first earthquake and had to go to hospital due to an injury caused by broken glass that I stepped on whilst running barefoot the night before. Jorge and I decided we could not overnight in the hostel where we were staying since, if we had to evacuate again, I would not be able to run. Very well foreseen this was!

Renato and his wife, the couple who bought our dear BMW (we had decided to sell it in Iquique’s zona franca since the trip was almost at its end), invited us to stay with them at their place situated in a high area in the city, at least high enough not to worry about tsunamis. We accepted the kind invitation and went with them to their house where the shelves were clear of decoration. Everything had fallen down the previous night. His son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter were also sleeping there that night.

When the night fell everyone started getting less confident, on TV we watched the discussion about earthquakes happening more often during the night. There was no consensus about it being true or myth. Renato was quick in confessing that he had not gotten used to earthquakes after all these years living in Iquique. His wife was like a well of strength and serenity even though the dark circles under her eyes betrayed the stress she had gone through the night before. We sat at the table for dinner, which Renato managed to get from a Chinese restaurant that worked for a couple of hours. The subject of the conversation during dinner did not vary much, since nobody was able to talk much about anything else.

Renato finally insisted on everyone going to bed early since nobody had slept much the previous night. Jorge and I retired anxiously to the bedroom on the first floor. We decided to keep our clothes on but to take off the shoes, which we positioned strategically close to the stairs. Before switching off the lights we looked around, trying to photograph the room so that we could find the exit in the dark if needed.

A few light temblors rocked us to sleep. We were awoken by a foreshock of 6.6 of magnitude. Enough to bring back the panic, we ran down the stairs and forgot all about the carefully planned strategy for the use of our shoes! Everybody met downstairs and tried to relax, after all this earthquake had not been that huge! We stayed at the entrance, not entirely outside on the street where electricity cables made it too dangerous to step outside. When the electricity was back we switched on TV to follow the news and heard that the town was again being evacuated. What a luxury not to have to worry about tsunamis. The number of temblors got too uncomfortable and we decided to put the shoes on and stay downstairs in the living room, close to the entrance door. We were all in the living room, prepared with torches and blankets. Renato pointed to some far away lights in a mountain on the horizon. Apparently those mysterious lights appear whenever there are earthquakes. We started talking about aliens. At least we got some distraction.

And then we were hit. A 7.2 after a 8.2 doesn’t make the second experience easier or lighter. We could’ stand it any longer, our bodies showed exhaustion and eventually our minds gave up being alert. We needed rest and rest came only when the day light showed on the horizon…

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