Sisters of St. Joseph of CarondeletOctober 26, 2021

The Earthquake in Chile

On February 27, 2010, a powerful earthquake measuring 8.8 on the Richter scale struck the Pacific Ocean coastline of Chile at 3:34 a.m. (local time). According to news reports, nearly 1,000 people have died and nearly 1.5 million homes have been damaged.

The earthquake's epicenter was some 100 kilometers northeast of the costal city of Concepción, southwest of the capital Santiago. A tsunami warning was issued for the entire Pacific basin as a result of the quake. There are still reports of strong aftershocks near the epicenter, and as far as the capital city.
Our Sisters serve in Talca and Curepto, Chile, as do the members of the Familia de San José (associates of the Sisters of St. Joseph who work closely with the sisters and share in our prayers and mission). Below is a letter written by Sister Margaret O’Rourke, a Sister of St. Joseph, who is serving in Talca, Chile.
Tuesday, March 3, 2010 (3 days later)
Dear Sisters, Associates and Friends,
Even for a Californian, I still cannot believe what we have lived (and continue to live) through here in central Chile. Chileans have survived stronger quakes (9+), but none have had the extension of this one (magnitude 8.8). Two entire regions (VII and VIII) have been completely destroyed.
We live in a poblacion on the outskirts of Talca, the capital of the 7th Region. Here we fared better than the city. Our houses are brick or wood, so very few people were trapped. Whereas in the town, many structures were adobe, and all of them went down; many died under the rubble. We are also one of the few areas where both water and electricity have been restored (as of last night). We have heard that a few markets may open in our area today.
On Sunday after a prayer service in our new chapel here in Virgin de los Pobres (which was just completed in December and by the grace of God suffered very little damage) Elena and I walked through the poblacion listening to stories of our families. Eventually I will share some of these human-interest stories. In the afternoon we drove downtown to check on a few friends. What we found looks as if it had been bombed.
Yesterday afternoon, Maruja and Anneke got down from Vilches where Sister Marcie Felipe ministers. This is an area in the pre-cordiellera of the Andes. It also escaped major damage, although some adobe houses fell. Sister Marcie is fine. Our great concern is for our friends and members of the Familia de San José in Curepto where Sisters Roseann Belpedio, Mary Jo Wilson, Marcie Felipe and I lived and ministered for years. They have been completely isolated, with no way to communicate with the outside. I went over to Menche Rojas' sister's house here in Talca to see if they had any news. A cousin of Antonio had made his way over the mountains on Saturday with some bad news. The Home for the Aged went down and at least two people were known to have died. The mother of the priest, Carlos Letillier, died, buried under her house, and several others had been found dead by the time he left. He said that the higher areas (where Menche lives) seemed to have survived (at least looking from the outside). However, from the plaza on down to the stadium, everything is destroyed. That is where most of the members of the Familia de San José live.
Menche, who had worked for these two summer months in Hogar Belen, so was here in Talca, went to Curepto when this cousin returned and promised to come back as soon as possible with some information. This morning, when we got up and turned on the TV, there was a news team that had finally gotten to Curepto. It is not good news. Sixty-five percent of the town is destroyed. There is still no means of communication.
The coast of Chile was the hardest hit. What didn't fall in the earthquake was taken by the tsunamis. The TV has been showing the coast areas this morning. Many of the people managed to climb the hills, and are up there with nothing. Because the roads out to the coast are destroyed, the navy is now on its way with huge ships to bring water, food and medicine to the survivors. Because this was the last weekend of our summer vacation, there were thousands of visitors in the beach areas. So, there are many disappeared, and families are desperate to receive news of relatives. The medios de comunicacion are doing their best to get names out and help people make connections.
Now, a personal note. I think I am still in shock. One minute I feel numb and the next minute I realize that my entire body aches from the tension. My entire abdominal area feels like a cement mixer, constantly churning. We are still having strong after-shocks every few hours. Just this morning one was a magnitude of 6. Sister Elena and I are sleeping in a tent in our patio, as are many of our neighbors. The exterior walls of our house are pretty good, but three of the interior walls are very bad. We have managed to clean the living room, the kitchen, the bathroom, and part of the closed-in porch where we eat. Today we hope to finish cleaning our bedrooms.
Hospitals from the south all the way to Santiago have been hard hit. Here in Talca we lost at least 2 of our hospitals. Those of you who read Spanish can get some of our news on-line. I have just read over 50 e-mails from some of you, asking how you can help. We appreciate your concern and prayers. We understand that the United States is organizing plans to send help; so, see how you can cooperate. It is true, that in comparison with many South American countries, Chile has a fairly good infrastructure, but there is no way to be prepared for a disaster of this magnitude.
This will be all for now. Thanks for your prayers. Keep them coming!
To view some photos taken by our Sisters in Chile, watch the slide show below.

Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet • 385 Watervliet-Shaker Road • Latham, NY 12110-4799
Main Provincal House Number (518) 783-3500 • Fax (518) 783-5209

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