By Ivan Pereira
The 8.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked Chile over the weekend damaged homes and killed more than 700 people so far, but Chileans living in Queens said they were grateful it was not worse.
Several immigrants from the South American nation gathered at the San Antonio Bakery in Astoria and were glued to the cafe’s television set, which was playing round-the-clock Chilean news.
Ivan Rodriguez, a first-generation Chilean American who lives in College Point, said that although he knows there are millions of people who have been displaced by the disaster, he was confident the country would be prepared to handle the aftermath, since it has been hit with other quakes over the last 25 years.
“This isn’t anything new to Chile,” said the 30-year-old, who had gotten in contact with some of his family who live there. “Chile is one of the most developed countries and the response will be quick.”
The quake, the most massive recorded in the history of the nation, hit early Saturday morning near the city of Concepcion and sent shockwaves across the Pacific Ocean. Some 1.5 million homes were affected by the rumblings, according to the Associated Press and BBC, and there were several powerful aftershocks Sunday and Saturday.
The nation experienced 8.0-magnitude earthquakes in 1985 and 1995.
Chilean immigrant Italo Baroni, 45, of Brooklyn, who was with his niece, Soledad Marambio, and her friends at the bakery, said residents are fully aware they are living on a volatile fault line and are prepared for the worst at an early age.
“You are taught when you are young how to deal with earthquakes,” he said.
Marambio, 33, concurred and said the disaster was not as severe as January’s earthquake in Haiti. She said the Chilean roads and buildings were built to handle quakes and the government has the resources to handle the aftermath.
“It could have been a lot worse,” the student said.
Another advantage Chileans had was communication, according to those gathered at the bakery since the phone and Internet systems came online within 24 hours, according to Chilean nationals living here.
Susana Rojas, a 26-year-old Chilean who lives in Astoria, said that although she did not get in direct contact with her friends and family, she was able to get in touch with them through Facebook, Twitter and text messaging.
“It looks like it’s the only way to connect with them,” she said as she kept watch for updates on her iPhone.
Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4546.