Shoreline's connection to the Chilean earthquake: Shorewood student Pancha Perez Heredia

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


When the earthquake hit Chile on February 27, Shorewood Rotary exchange student Francisca "Pancha" Perez Heredia didn't know if her family at home in Chile were alive or dead. The earthquake news was very bad - an 8.8 quake, one of the largest ever recorded.  Elevated freeways in Santiago, the largest city in the area, collapsed, with cars tumbled like toys. Pancha's home town of Talca, 186 miles south of Santiago, was even closer to the epicenter than heavily damaged Santiago and was one of the hardest hit cities.
Photo of Shorewood student Pancha Perez Heredia by Lee Craig.

It was several hours before she made contact with an uncle and four agonizing days before she finally talked to her parents to hear that they and her little sister were unharmed.

 Like the rest of their neighbors, they were afraid to stay in their homes. After-shocks as big as 5.5 continued to shake the area on a daily basis and no one knew when the next building would fall. Like many others, her family was sleeping in their car.  
Photo courtesy Pancha Perez Heredia.

Solidly built homes were severely damaged, such as this fine old home belonging to the sister of a former Northshore exchange student, also from Talca.   
Photo from Katharine Sutter.

The oldest parts of town were shredded and broken. If you look at the photos collected by Boston.com, there are many stunning shots of the devastation in Talca. The second picture on the site shows the interior of what used to be someone's home.
 
Photo of Talca business area courtesy of Pancha's friend Pablo.

486 people died while some 80 people are still missing. Bodies were lying in the streets and buried in the rubble.

Cathedral in Talca. Photo by Pablo.
 












Civic building in Talca. Photo by Andres Perez.







Pancha's father, whose office was intact but contents tumbled, had stress beyond seeing to the safety of his family. As an executive with the power company, he was responsible for restoring electricity to the city. With the substations twisted like steel pretzels, this was a daunting task.

Photos of office and power substation by Luis Perez

Pancha's family moved back into their home, but hundreds of people were homeless.  

Chile is a modern country, with hard-working people who set about immediately to clear rubble, restore services, and take care of the dead and wounded.  But the extent of the homelessness, in a city with a population of 100,000, is devastating.

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