Fearful Chileans Across Region Seek Answers After Massive Quake

8.8-magnitude quake killed at least 147, triggered tsunami

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    A woman comforts a dog in the aftermath of the quake.

    Anxious Chileans across the region called into the Consulate near the United Nations, desperate for news and solace in the aftermath of the massive earthquake that struck Chile Saturday morning.

    The 8.8-magnitude quake killed at least 147 people, toppled buildings, destroyed bridges and could be felt 1,800 miles away in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Electricity, water and phone lines were cut to many areas.

    Patricio Damm, the Consul General of Chile, is trying to help Chileans in the tri-state who seek news, but he also has concerns of his own.

    When he first got word the quake hit Chile, Damm says, "I thought about my family." 

    His children managed to call him early from Santiago. They said everything in their apartment fell down; two TVs crashed and chinaware toppled and broke into pieces on the floor.

    "They told me they were very scared, even though they're used to earthquakes," said Damm. "But this lasted a lot of time -- almost two minutes -- and two minutes in an earthquake ..."

    Customers in restaurants and bodegas across the city stalled in their purchasing to stare at Spanish TV coverage of the quake. Ruben Guzman, who owns a bakery in Astoria, said he had worried customers coming in all day. He also pledged to work with the Consulate to coordinate relief and donations starting Monday.

    But Damm says not to donate at this point in time.  The Consul General says earthquakes are nothing new in Chile -- and the country has yet to ask for foreign aid because at this point, their disaster relief teams are handling the situation.

    Damm said his primary job in the consulate now is to be there to help New Yorkers concerned about their loved ones in Chile.

    "The only message we can give them is to have patience, to be calm and to be confident in what the Chilean authorities are doing in this moment," he said.

    The quake Saturday triggered a tsunami that raced across the Pacific Ocean on Saturday, threatening Hawaii and the U.S. West Coast as well as hundreds of islands from the bottom of the planet to the top.