Bay Area emergency relief crews await call to Chile

February 28, 2010 6:05:43 PM PST
Rescue workers from the Bay Area say they are ready to help the people of Chile, they just have not gotten the call.

They have not received that call in part because Chile's government is still trying to determine how much outside help the country will require. But, the president said Sunday that Chile needs everything from field hospitals to temporary bridges and it will accept some of the offers of aid that have poured in.

With phone lines down, Nancy Broderick still has not heard from her husband Edmundo who is visiting family near Concepcion, the quake's epicenter. But, late Saturday, a family member in Chile managed to send word. It was good news.

"Nobody was hurt and the mother's house wasn't even damaged, which was a big surprise to me," Broderick said.

Berkeley's Valparaiso Cafe has become the epicenter for Bay Area Chileans who are desperate for any news about their home country.

"This morning was very horrific I think, because everything is settled down now and images are coming in," said Chilean immigrant and Berkeley resident Fernando Torres.

One day after the 8.8 quake rocked the country the death toll is more than 700 people. At least 500,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. Despite those facts, Chile's Consul General Alex Geiger in San Francisco says it is too early to tell how much international aid will be needed, if any.

"I consider we are lucky due to the strength of this quake, the damage we see could have been much, much worse," he said.

Bay Area rescue workers like one FEMA crew out of Menlo Park say they are ready to help, but have not been called.

"I know people are trying to compare it to Haiti and there is really no comparison in terms of damage, because again, it is a modern society with building codes and good emergency response," said Menlo Park Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman,

It is also a country that is no stranger to big earthquakes..

"Luckily we have resources and our contingency plans are there and we are in control of the situation," Geiger said.

Geiger also said that every time Chile experiences a quake, building codes and regulations get even tougher there. In this case, that may have saved many of cities from even more devastation.