March 11, 2010

The Tidal Wave that Never Was

It was a bad day to take a trip to Iquique. And that's just what I (Anna) decided to do this afternoon, about an hour after a 7.2 earthquake shook central Chile. As a preventative measure, Iquique decided to evacuate the city in preparation for a tsunami. I wasn't privy to this information when I got on the bus in Alto Hospicio. I made the 40 minute trek down the mountain to Iquique and realized my problem as soon as I arrived.

As the bus entered the city, I was faced with hundreds of people who had left the coast in search for higher ground. Just as I was descending the mountain, these hundreds of people were looking for away to get up! Needless to say, I didn't make it to the post office or to the art store as I had hoped. I wasn't too worried about a tsunami, but it was interesting to see people's reactions and the way they handled the situation.

Lots of people carried their dogs with them. The local convenience store was swarmed with people buying the necessities - bottled watter, potato chips and cigarettes. I also bought a couple of essentials (ginger ale and a sandwich) and walked over to the bus stop to return home. It quickly became apparent that this was not going to happen! There was a swarm of people waiting for buses and taxis, which passed by without stopping because they were already beyond capacity. A few kind souls with private vehicles and space stopped to pick up elderly women, mothers with small children or neighbors. Interestingly though, about 80% of the cars passed by empty, racing by the nervous crowd in order to beat the "tidal wave."

I think that Iquique earned a "Needs Improvement" grade in regards to Brotherly Love. In conclusion, the next time I'm in Iquique during an earthquake or tsunami warning, I'll get started early and walk up the mountain. I'm sure I'll make it to the top before the buses make it through the traffic jam.

No comments: