Local Chileans try to connect with family after quake

February 27, 2010 7:07:58 PM PST
The Bay Area is home to a small community of Chileans. Many of them tried Saturday to contact their loved ones 6,000 miles away.

Several people told ABC7 Saturday evening that they still had no idea if their loved ones were okay. It was a very difficult task, especially with the death toll is rising.

Fernando Torres stayed in the same room all day Saturday. That is where he stayed connected to everything coming out of Chile.

"So, this is the way to get news, and contact with some members of my family," he said.

Torres has friends and family in Santiago, which is about 100 miles from the quake's epicenter. Internet connections are spotty all over Chile, but Maria Elena got a message to Torres saying, "Mother Earth, what force you have!"

Just one sentence was enough for him to finally smile.

"I see my friends putting out messages," he said. "I can feel closer to home."

Actually talking to someone from home would have been even better. After six hours, Torres finally reached his aunt and found out a massive door fell on his elderly uncle. He is injured, but alive.

"She sounds really scared. She sounds really scared because up until now, there's still tremors and there's not electricity," Torres told ABC7.

Much of Chile is still without power. Cell phone towers are also down which is causing those in the Bay Area's small, close-knit Chilean community, to panic. They made calls to one of the only Chilean restaurants and community centers in the area for updates and comfort.

The owners of Cafe Valpraiso in Berkeley have reached most of their relatives in Chile. They are safe, but scared. Aftershocks continue to shake the country leaving those thousands of miles away feeling helpless.

"It's really hard because you know, nothing you can do," said Pablo Valenzuela. "I mean, try to get information and get together and try to get more information for everybody, the whole family."

Chilean community center leaders in Berkeley hope to figure out fundraiser possibilities and options by Sunday morning. Their goal is to get supplies and aid to Chile as quickly as possible.