Thank you very much for your emails, prayers and support. We do appreciate them. As I said in my rushed message we are all well and I can now tell you a bit more since we have better access to the internet. Huelquén was on the edge of the real shock. Two people were killed just down the road when their adobe house collapsed on them and many of that type of house in the area is now unusable and must be demolished. Our house stood up wonderfully well, a tribute to modern design and to the builders. Apart from a lot of broken glasses and crockery, and a badly shaken cat who was asleep in the study and must have woken to find it raining books as over three hundred of them fell off the shelves, we suffered very little damage. Even so, both Linda and I had mild attacks of delayed shock (as did Peter) two or three days later. A pupil of Linda’s told her that, when he finally contacted his mother forty-eight hours later once the telephones were back, he discovered that she had eaten nothing since the quake, despite having a full larder. She lives on the fifteenth story of a block of flats and, apart from the jolting, her bedroom must have oscillated through an arc of forty or fifty feet since tower blocks are built to be flexible.
What is it like being in a big shake? I don’t know how many of you have ever heard a spin-drier vibrating with a load that is badly off centre: imagine being inside without the spin, just the jolts; or in an airplane which suddenly hits really heavy turbulence. Being in a big quake is a bit like that; you get really shaken up with short sharp jolts for anything up to a couple of minutes. One of the really wearing things is the trail of after-shocks. When a tremor comes, there is absolutely no way of knowing if is going to turn into another quake or not. The slight rattle of the windows, the creak of the roof timbers probably mark the passing of another minor tremor, but they might just be the beginning of another big quake and the adrenalin begins to flow again as one gets ready to move fast if necessary.
We feel particularly affected by what happened on the coast because we were on holiday there only a month ago. We spent a lovely time with David in Vichuquén sailing in the dinghy he built and then went down the coast from Iloca, past Constitución to Cobquecura. When pictures of the devastation are shown on television they bring back memories as do our holiday snaps. I took some photos of “huasos” in full regalia riding in procession of February 2nd in Cobquecura and, as I looked at them I found myself wondering how many of them are still alive.
We are more or less back to normal now. The electricity and mains water are functioning, but we have no telephone yet apart from our mobiles. A farmer brought round water in a large tank behind a tractor for a couple of days and, while we were queuing for it and exchanging news with our neighbours, Linda commented that she was off to the village to buy some bread, only to be told that no one was baking yet.
Well, we had plenty of pasta and potatoes, so that was no real hardship. Ninety minutes later, the daughter of the people who live across the road arrived with a big smile and four freshly-baked large rolls to help us out!
This story leads me on to a comment: from what I have seen on the internet, the overseas news has concentrated on the looting that has taken place. For every incident of that type that has hit the headlines, there are hundreds of examples of kindness and solidarity, some very small like the one I have just described, others much bigger like the university student who got some friends together, filled a couple of pickup-trucks with bread and food plus drinks, and drove down to the coast where he and his family had spent the summer to feed people who had absolutely nothing left after the tsunami.
I have told our story first, now let me give some more general Church news. As things stand at the minute, I understand all Anglican personnel: pastors, missionaries and families have survived and are well. The news from Concepción so far is that no one from the 70 member families of the Church there has been killed although some have suffered severe damage to their houses. Elsewhere in the Diocese, damage to property is apparently limited to the pastor’s house in Psje Benedictinos, Viña del Mar, which may be a total loss, and damage to the Church in Conchalí (Santiago) and the former Diocesan Office in Phillips, Santiago (now rented out). Santiago Community Church has its Hall temporarily out of action until a structural survey can be carried out on some of the roof beams. Their other buildings have lost some tiles, but this is to be expected.
Let me just slip a few other bits of information:
Guillermo Martínez will be instituted as pastor of the Vitacura Church on March 21st. This relieves me of the responsibility and although it has been a rewarding experience in many ways, the distance and the demands have been tiring and I am sure it is right to be handing over now even though I do not know what I shall be doing next (if anything).
Nicky (David’s son) went ice-skating for a pre-school year treat and managed to break his ankle. He is now hobbling about in a special boot and off games, which does not worry him in the slightest but will complicate the start of the school year.
We are just wondering how far we are meant to be concentrating our future in Huelquén rather than commuting to Santiago. We are sure it was right to come here and the only fixed point in Santiago will be Linda’s activities in Community Church (choir plus a Bible Study)
I am not going to detail points for prayer, but would make one request. The quake may be news for a few more days, but it will take years to rebuild and there are a lot of memories which will be very, very difficult to heal: please keep praying.
Thank you ever so much,
With all our love,
John and Linda Cobb