Valparaiso – it gets knocked down, it gets up again!

Walking through the main streets of the port area of #Valparaiso #Chile early one morning, it was eerily quiet and deserted, with very little traffic. This though was not the 11 September 1973, the day the military coup against the Allende government started, although perhaps it was a little like that then. This was in fact 20 April 2017, census day, when everyone was required to remain home and be counted. In 1973 they’d been required to remain home or be shot by the military & police in their streets, or bombed by the Chilean navy situated in the port & bay, with their naval guns facing the city. To this day the Chilean navy remains based in Valparaiso, with ships in the port harbour, just a warning perhaps?

The 1973 military coup was one of many knocks taken by Valparaiso over the years – another was the fact that General Augusto Pinochet, the coup leader & soon-to-be dictator, was a son of Valparaiso, born there in 1915. But as ever Valparaiso bounces back, and today is home to the Chilean Congress (since 1990 when Pinochet stepped down), a greatly recovering local economy, and maintains a strong alternative/bohemian culture alongside it’s working class & international roots. Continue reading

The earth moved and the house visibly shook – Monday’s 6.9 earthquake off #Valparaiso

Was that a very strong wind blowing the house? No, definitely not. The floor, walls and ceiling are moving, and we need to move too! The port city of #Valparaiso in #Chile was hit by a 6.9 earthquake around 6.38pm on Monday 24 April, and we’d never experienced anything like it.

She was downstairs starting to cook, her earthquake training from old Vancouver days kicked in, in an instant the gas was off & she stood in a doorway. Moments later she was outside.

He was upstairs watching 2 buildings that had been on fire near to the port for the last hour, causing traffic chaos. He thought it was a strong wind, but as the ceiling light fitting bounced up and down and the walls moved, he very nervously dashed down the stairs and outside too. The 2 Chileans working at the hostal were outside too, the guy was very nonchalant and said how common such events were in Chile, but the woman was much more nervous. That was a big one. She contacted her kids. The quake had struck some 35km out to sea at a depth of around 25km. Initially it was listed as being 6.5, then 6.7, then 7.1, but 6.9 seems to be the final size. That’s big enough. (see local reports & pics from La Estrella in spanish). Continue reading

#potd: A Chile beach welcome – a Tsunami Warning!

After arriving on the Pacific coast of Chile near the city of La Serena, naturally one of the first things to do is go see the sea. After 4 months in the Andes we were looking forwards to the coast again. So it’s a bit of a shock jumping off the bus in the port of Coquimbo (in the huge bay of same name), to see immediately this warning – Tsunami Hazard Zone.

Coquimbo bay, with La Serena in distance

In fact such signs, and others relating to earthquakes, are all over Chile, and particularly near the coast for the simple reason that Chile experiences a lot of both earthquakes & tsunamis. Indeed on 16 September 2015 following an 8.3 earthquake at sea south west of Coquimbo city, a few minutes later around 8pm a huge Tsunami wave hit the Coquimbo port area, going some 4-5m over the sea wall, and causing huge damage. Other coastal towns/ports such as Valparaiso, Tongoy & Concon also experienced damage & flooding, leaving some 13 dead & 6 missing, and many thousands in damaged homes. (See info, science & news on 2015 in spanish, english, and english again). Continue reading