Local Chilean community feels helpless

Sandra Epp hopes countries will rally quickly to help victims of Saturday’s earthquake in Chile.

Gloria Vasquez

Gloria Vasquez

Sandra Epp hopes countries will rally quickly to help victims of Saturday’s earthquake in Chile.

Born in Chile and now a Lacombe resident, Epp said her relatives survived, but they are in shock.

“Nobody is sleeping much at night. They thought they were going to die. They thought that was the end,” said Epp about the 8.8-magnitude quake that struck the South American country at 3:34 a.m.

Now water, gasoline, food are becoming scarce and people are getting desperate, especially in rural areas.

“I feel like my hands are tied,” said Epp on Monday, after speaking via Skype to her mother in Temuco, Chile, about 300 km south of the earthquake’s epicentre.

“I cannot wire money. Bank machines are not working.”

And in the coming days, people’s needs will continue to multiple, said Epp, who works for Central Alberta Refugee Effort Committee.

Gloria Vasquez, who grew up in Chile, also feels helpless.

Her family in Chile is alive. But they have lost everything and it’s going to get worse unless more help arrives soon.

“Everyone’s okay. But I know they’re not. They say they’re okay because they don’t want you to worry,” said the owner of Gloria’s Alterations at Bower Place Shopping Centre.

“But they’re not okay. We’re not okay. We’re not,” said Vasquez, her eyes shiny with tears.

She screamed when she turned on the television early Saturday morning. On Monday, she couldn’t watch any more.

“You’re here for so long, but they are still your family, regardless where you make your life. That’s your country.”

Her sister in Santiago, Chile told her the earthquake was like being in a blender.

“You press the button, and put it at high speed.”

With her phone and address book within reach, Vasquez stays in close contact with her family through her niece in Santiago, who has the only working phone among her relatives.

“It makes you appreciate what you have. Even that glass of water. That’s something so simple,” Vasquez said.

More than 700 people died in the quake.

On Saturday morning, Elaine Johnson and her husband Raul Ramirez found out his family survived through her sister-in-law’s Facebook page, and spoke via Skype on Sunday night to his parents, who live near Talac, Chile, 300 km from the epicentre.

“They are safe. They were actually in the capital Santiago with other family,” said Johnson, an urban forester with the City of Red Deer.

In Santiago, 325 km away from the epicentre, the quake still registered eight on the Richter scale.

“Some of the ramps have collapsed. Some of the highways have really buckled and pancaked. They’re not sure of the structural stability of the buildings because some of them are fairly old.”

Now the Red Deer couple is now watching Facebook for any updates from friends in Chile.

“You can always buy materials to fix your house. Buy a new car.

“But you sure can’t replace family members or loved-ones,” Johnson said.

Lori Lamothe, assistant co-ordinator of finance and administration at the Red Cross in Red Deer, said so far no public donations have come in to the local office for disaster assistance in Chile.

On Monday, the national Red Cross website did not yet include a donation campaign for Chile.

For more information call the Red Deer office at 403-346-1241 or go to www.redcross.ca.

As of 4 p.m. on Monday, Canada Foreign Affairs reported 520 Canadians had been located in Chile and 337 have not.

szielinski@bprda.wpengine.com

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