Chile quake hits home for students

The Chilean president said sunday the death toll was 708.

Thomas Hoffman, left, and Sofia Aedo both have relatives and friends living in Chile.

Thomas Hoffman, left, and Sofia Aedo both have relatives and friends living in Chile.

Luke Feuerherm

Soon after a magnitude-8.8 earthquake shook the streets of Chile, the reverberations were felt on the University of Minnesota campus. Chile is home for junior Sofia Aedo, who spent most her life there. She woke up Saturday morning to a call from her brother assuring her that their mother, who lives in the Chilean capital of Santiago, survived the quake. âÄúFor me, it was really hard to hear because my mom is by herself right now,âÄù Aedo said. The earthquake hit roughly 200 miles south of Santiago in central Chile at 3:34 a.m., the United States Geological Survey reported. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet put the death toll at 708 Sunday, and the latest estimates are that over 2 million have been displaced because of the quake. It jarred AedoâÄôs motherâÄôs door shut and took out the power, leaving her trapped in her dark, unsettled apartment until neighbors could free her. Since the earthquake hit, Aedo, a physiology major, has divided her time between contacting relatives and friends to confirm their safety and watching news updates from Chilean Web sites. âÄúI had been watching the news all day,âÄù said Aedo. âÄúSo I guess my eyes were kind of tiring.âÄù AedoâÄôs roommate, economics junior Thomas Hofman was born in Chile, and he too has spent most his life in the country. âÄúIt was definitely a relief,âÄù said Hofman. âÄúMost of the people I know are OK.âÄù Hofman said he was sure Chile would quickly bounce back from the quake because of the countryâÄôs past experiences. âÄúI know Chile has a strong earthquake influence in architecture,âÄù Hoffman said. Many building codes in Chile were put in place after earthquakes to help prepare for the future. Aedo remembers living through a year when three earthquakes hit the country. âÄúI mean, no matter how used to stuff like that you are, I donâÄôt think anyone was prepared for such a strong one,âÄù Aedo said. At a press conference Sunday, President Bachelet said the quake was âÄúan emergency unparalleled in the history of Chile.âÄù Conditions varied greatly between Santiago and towns closer to the epicenter. Poorer cities in central Chile faced a more intense tremor and had less-reinforced infrastructure in place. AedoâÄôs aunt and cousin live in Talca, a city 167 miles south of Santiago. Nearly every home in the center of the city was destroyed, The New York Times reported. AedoâÄôs cousin is currently stranded. Both gas and electric are out in several cities in Chile, making communication difficult, Aedo said. âÄúMy relatives have cell phones but no way of charging them. ThatâÄôs how we lost contact with my aunt.âÄù While the magnitude-8.8 earthquake is more severe than the quake that hit Haiti Jan. 12, ChileâÄôs preparedness will lead to less devastation, Aedo said. Aedo and Hofman both have plans to travel back home this May and said they expect to find their towns rebuilt.