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Passionist Sister Betty Verdejo, Shares her Experience of the Earthquake in Chile

I would like to share my experience of the earthquake of the 27th. February 2010 in Chile. I was in Pemuco when the quake began and it seemed that it was never going to end as the intensity grew every second. I tried to walk towards where the other sisters were but the movement impeded me and was pushing me back. Eventually as the lights went out we managed to go down the stairs and get out into the open. On the street people were screaming and imploring God to save them. There we met many people we knew who were so frightened as the after shocks continued, each one stronger than the previous one. That night nobody slept and it seemed like an eternity before the dawn broke. As the sun rose in the sky we were able to appreciate all the damage that had been caused. The first thing we saw was our church on the ground; then the houses around us, many of them with huge cracks in their structure and others completed destroyed.

All communication was cut off, so as a town we were completely isolated. There were no telephones, electricity nor water and there was an atmosphere of panic everywhere. This earthquake was worse than any other we had experienced. We had to share our fears and we felt very vulnerable.

We began working to help those who were the worst affected. The young people, with whom we had shared the faith, formed solidarity groups and we looked to the most isolated parts of the countryside to help people who were unable to reach the town as they had no means of transport. An atmosphere of fraternity and service was established as we helped the old people to take some of their possessions from the ruins of their houses. We mended roofs and brought water and food to those who had lost everything.

I feel that this earthquake has left us, as a country, with many lessons to learn. Now we are beginning the stage of rebuilding Chile as so many people lost their homes either in the earthquake or the tsunami, and even still there are many people lost in the sea. So we are starting a new life. It was certainly a dreadful experience to feel so powerless with the force of nature. Also the uncertainty of what was to follow, and the feeling of being alone and not being able to communicate. Modern technology was of no use to us.

Thank God we have faith and the strength to fight and in this way we will be able to move forward as we have done on so many other occasions.

We are grateful for all the help we are receiving from other countries around the world.

Blessings,

Betty Verdejo

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