Students studying in Chile safe after 8.8 earthquake

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Following an 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile Saturday, seven Marquette students studying abroad there feel lucky to be out of harm’s way.

Cy Kondrick, a junior in the College of Arts & Sciences, said the students had been staying in Linares, near the epicenter, until last Thursday, just two days before the quake. They had been living there since Feb. 5 as part of a pre-semester program. Earlier this month, the students visited Constitución, where a tsunami devastated entire neighborhoods shortly after the quake.

The death toll in Chile has surpassed 700 and is expected to rise. The majority of those deaths occurred in the Maule region, where Linares and Constitución are located. The Associated Press reports that looters in hard-hit Concepción were being subdued with tear gas and rescue workers spent hours trying to free those trapped under buildings.

“Upon seeing the news, it makes me realize how unbelievably lucky we are to have moved up here in time and to have escaped the severe damage in the south,” Kondrick said in an e-mail.

The students now live near Santiago, where they were scheduled to start orientation Monday at Pontificia Universidad Católica, which has been delayed a week. Each student lives with a separate local family to integrate themselves into Chilean life and culture while practicing their Spanish, Kondrick said.

Terence Miller, director of Marquette’s Office of International Education, said the office worked to get in touch with the students immediately.

“All seven students have been contacted and we know that all seven students are OK,” Miller said.

Kondrick said he was woken by the earthquake at about 3:30 a.m. Saturday, and he and his host family ran outside.

“It was kind of intense but it was still navigable,” Kondrick said. “By the time I had gotten outside, the shaking had stopped because it only lasted like 45 seconds or so.”

He and his host family waited outside for an hour before heading back to bed. He felt two short aftershocks that morning and another Sunday morning.

Near the epicenter, aftershocks were much stronger and more frequent, hampering rescue efforts, the Associated Press reported.

Josie Pierce, a junior in the College of Nursing, said she had just returned from a bar with friends and was writing an e-mail to her boyfriend when her room started shaking.

Pierce said she worried the roof would cave in and started to pray. While the earthquake lasted only a few minutes, she said it seemed much longer.

She and Kondrick said they were without power for almost 24 hours.

Ben Neary, a junior in the College of Business Administration also living near Santiago, said he is still without power and has been unable to go far from home for three days.

Neary said he rode his bike to the center of Santiago, which was in ruins. He said glass is everywhere and the metros and taxis are not running.

“When I went to the supermarket yesterday I thought that the next Apocalypse was coming,” Neary said in an e-mail. “People were going crazy.”

He said there wasn’t much food left by the time he got into the market. He also waited in a long line to get Internet at a cyber café. His cell phone is no longer working.

Pierce said she is thankful the group was no longer in Linares, and that Santiago has building codes in place to prevent severe earthquake damage

“I am also thankful for all of the prayers, thoughts and support from my family, friends, and the Marquette community,” she said. “This was definitely a life-changing experience.”