Alumnus Recounts Experience in Chilean Earthquake

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Summary Sentence:

Tech alumnus Pablo Catal n recounted his experiences during and

Full Summary:

Tech alumnus Pablo Catal n recounted his experiences during and after the earthquake which struck Chile on February 27th - one of the most powerful quakes ever recorded.

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  • Concepci  n, Chile after Feb 27 Earthquake Concepci n, Chile after Feb 27 Earthquake
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  • Wreckage in Concepci  n Wreckage in Concepci n
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Tech alumnus Pablo Catal n recounted his experiences during and after the earthquake which struck Chile on February 27 - one of the most powerful quakes ever recorded.

Catal n, who has a Master's from, and is a PhD candidate in, the School of Public Policy lives in Concepci n, Chile with his wife, Teresita Marzialetti, and 8-month old daughter, Candela. His wife is also a Georgia Tech alumna, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Chemical Engineering. Catal n works in the Research Directorate at Universidad de Concepci n, Chile. They were in Concepci n when the earthquake struck.

"The earthquake was at 3:30 in the morning, and we were sleeping and I started to feel the earth moving under my feet. We jumped out the bed...ran to get our baby girl and we stayed under the frame of her door, her bedroom's door. We...live in a 10th floor apartment so you can imagine the building was moving, shaking like crazy."

"My first idea was just hugging my wife, and my baby girl and staying there because I thought, 'Well this is kind of normal, probably it's going to end by I don't know 30 seconds or something like that'. But...it started hitting very very hard, harder and harder and harder. And it never stopped. So...for the first time in my life, I was hearing all my dishes, all our furniture falling down. And even the drawers in the closets flying. We (could hear) people screaming on the streets." Catal n, his wife and daughter took shelter under the bedroom door frame; all fortunately, were unharmed. After the quake stopped, they headed to his parents, who were also unharmed. They have since been living with Catal n's parents. Although their apartment building is still standing, many of their possessions are destroyed. Catal n admits they are slightly scared to go back home.

"(A week) after the earthquake we got electricity (again). I watched TV, I watched the news and then we learned how devastating the earthquake was in other regions of our country." Death toll estimates range from 300 to 800 dead. About 500,000 homes were destroyed and damage estimates were as high as $30 billion. The earthquake measured 8.8 on the Richter and was so powerful that seismologists believe that it may have shortened the length of the Earth's day by 1.26 microseconds.

Since the quake, the Chilean army has been deployed throughout most of the country, for safety and security as well as rescue work. They are especially called upon to deter looting, which has been an issue in Chile, post-quake. Supplies of food, water, electricity and natural gas in Concepci n are gradually returning to normal. Communications, which were knocked out during the quake, are also inching towards normalcy, although Catal n had an interesting aside to offer. Even though mobile phone call services were hit, mobile Internet services were working for some time after the quake. "The only way to tell friends that we were OK was through Facebook. My wife and I are great Hawks fans, and we checked for the games too."

Because Chile is an earthquake-prone country, the country's building codes call for strong construction. As a result, most of the buildings in Concepcion are still standing. Catal n's university, however, lost two buildings; the school of chemistry and a marine biology station located approximately 40 miles of Concepci n, which was devastated by the tsunami that followed the earthquake.

"A lot of research, samples, students' work, labs were lost in the earthquake," said Catal n. Classes resumed at the university on April 5.

The mood overall, is still positive. Catal n explains, "The people here are kind of down but at the same time we are very optimistic that we have a responsibility to rebuild our country and our city here."

It will take some years for Chile to recover from the disaster. But for Chileans, that's a part of life. "In Chile, we are used to having natural disasters; earthquakes, floods and droughts," concluded Catal n.

To help those affected in Chile, and the recent earthquake in Haiti, please visit the American Red Cross

Written by Jayraj Jog
Photos courtesy of Juan Pedro Ellissetche

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Ivan Allen College of Liberal Arts

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Alumni, Institute and Campus
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Keywords
Chile, Earthquake, INTA
Status
  • Created By: Rebecca Keane
  • Workflow Status: Published
  • Created On: Apr 12, 2010 - 8:00pm
  • Last Updated: Oct 7, 2016 - 11:06pm