Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Iquique Earthquake and Tsunami Alert, April 1 2014

Thank you to everyone who has asked about how we are doing after hearing about the very strong earthquake 99 kilometers off the coast of northern Chile last night. It registered as 8.2, and was felt over a wide area, including in La Paz, Bolivia. We did not feel it, as we are 1,740 kilometres, or 1, 081 miles away.
Screen shot form USGS, showing the 36 quakes that have happened in the last 24 hours near Iquique:
The first we knew about this was around 9:20 p.m. or so, when we heard an unusual number of fire and police sirens and public announcements out on the street. I said to Steve "Hey, there is something going on", and he checked out the window, but couldn't see anything. We figured there was some sort of ruckus on Alvarez, the street we live on. At the same time, I went online to check my email once more before shutting down before bed, and saw several alerts from the USGS earthquake and tsunami alert service I subscribe to.

When we saw how big the quake was, and that a tsunami warning had been issued, I sent an email which some of you got, letting you know we were fine. At the same time, the inter-building phone rang, and we were told to go to the 25th floor, where there is a roof deck. So we got Joel up, I grabbed our emergency bag, a blanket and my computer, and off we went. It was a beautiful night, clear and fairly warm, as we gathered with other folks from lower floors to wait and see what would happen.

After watching the view and activity on the street for a while, I went down to the 15th floor where Tim, another Fulbrighter and his girlfriend Melanie live. They invited us in, and we spend about 45 minutes with them, watching reports and looking online to find out what was going on. We went back downstairs around 10:30 when it became clear that the tsunami was very small in our area, and was confined to the beach.

We are about 10 blocks away from the ocean, and Alvarez slopes up to where our building is (Alvarez, 132, if you want to google map it) Our place is on the 4th floor, which is actually above where water can reach. I believed I discussed my reasons for choosing this area in a previous post: It is close to Joel's school and at the very edge of the inundation zone, where water levels would reach about a 3 feet if there were a large tsunami.

Classes were suspended for today everywhere along the coast, including my university and Joel's school. This may seem strange, as the threat of a tsunami is over. But from what I understand, this was done soon after the warnings, when people were ordered to evacuate. At that point, not much was known as to the size of the tsunami, so better to simply cancel and wait and see.

So this morning, we went off the the fish dock, as we'd planned, with Joel in tow. We suspected the local fishermen would not have been out, since they fish at night and bring their catch in early in the morning. This did prove to be the case, everything was very quiet at Portales today. There was one merchant open, and we bought some of the fish that is trucked in daily from other places. The highlight of the trip was taking the fish heads and guts after our fish were cleaned for us, and feeding them to the sea lions that were in the ocean under the dock. I've heard that on a typical day, barrels of fish guts go over the edge of the pier. No wonder the sea lions hang out there! Take a look at Steve's blog link later, as he got some pictures of the mini feeding frenzy we created.

So, all in all, the whole country is breathing a huge sigh of relief. If the quake had been about 30 miles closer, we would have been dealing with a terrible tragedy.

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