(Translated from an article in La Tercera.)
On the Juan Fernández Islands, 600km off the coast of Chile, the 8.8 earthquake that shook the mainland on Saturday morning was only a gentle tremble. At least that’s what it felt like to Maratina Maturana, 12 years old and the daughter of a federal police officer stationed on Robinson Crusoe Island.
Worried that something strange had happened, she told her father, who after calming her down, called the mainland to get information about a possible earthquake. When her grandfather in Valparaíso confirmed that a tragedy had occurred in Chile, Maratina looked out the window and saw that the boats in the bay were bucking and bumping into each other
That’s when she ran to the village square and rang the gong installed in the center of the park. Though she didn’t know the emergency codes used by the island’s authorities – two for fire, three for landslide – she woke several of the island residents, who also started ringing bells and fleeing to high ground. Minutes later, a tsunami destroyed the cove. It was thanks to Maratina that the tsunami didn’t cause more deaths.
“There was nothing left”
Ricardo Bravo, Valparaíso’s governor, told stories like these upon returning to the mainland from the islands yesterday afternon. “There was nothing left on the island,” he explained. According to Bravo, who was named head of the Juan Fernández emergency committee, the waves swept inland 300 meters, flooding a school, the town square, and the municipality. Yesterday, two ambulance planes arrived with the remains of eight victims who died in the disaster. Another four will be buried on the island.
Bravo said that 200 people were affected, which represents 35% of the island’s population. They were taking shelter in the homes that were still standing. There are also eight people missing, among them a Spanish citizen. As for the injured, Bravo said that five were flown in on Saturday and two yesterday. “They’re the most seriously injured, with fractures and wounds. Those with less serious injuries stayed (on the island),” he said. An army unit that will work on clean-up and rebuilding arrived yesterday on the frigate Condell with rescue equipment, water, food, generators, and a team of paramedics.