SAN ANTONIO, Chile – Five crosses, a clock stopped at 3:34 a.m. and a handful of houses swept away by the sea make up one of the pictures of the destruction in San Antonio, the city that – up until the day of the magnitude-8.8 earthquake – was one of Chile’s busiest Pacific ports.
The five crosses correspond to people who drowned in the tsunami that swept away many more people, but rescue teams have lost any hope of finding more bodies.
“The same people who had erected their houses on the edge of the sea undertook to place the crosses and also the clock that they found buried in the mud,” police Maj. Eduardo Vergara tells Efe.
The 250 shacks that poor people built at the edge of the beach were swept away by the huge wave that overwhelmed the area just after the Feb. 27 earthquake.
“The sea came in ... and swept away everything before it, leaving a desolate landscape,” Vergara said.
But San Antonio, 180 kilometers (112 miles) west of the Chilean capital, is not the only spot in the area that suffered such devastation. Llo-Lleo, a neighboring town, had serious damage to many homes, schools and even the jail.
During the 1985 earthquake, which these days all Chileans have been remembering, San Antonio was 80 percent destroyed.
In contrast to what happened at the port of Talcahuano, this time in San Antonio the damage was not so devastating and the city is trying, little by little, to get back to normal.
Of the eight docking sites at the port, five are still operating, although the offloading of cargo ships is going slowly and 10 vessels still remain in the queue nearby.
The situation “is normalizing,” says Francisca Chauan, who represents the region in the Chilean Senate.
Several apartment buildings collapsed during and after the quake and the renters there, like Daditza, a 17-year-old student, now sleep on the streets. Some have even moved into the hills, fearing another tsunami.
Shops, public buildings and even the casino show cracks and other damage. The courts are not functioning and many churches lost their roofs, says the Rev. Rafael Vicuña.
Everyone is yearning for – and working for – things to get back to normal, but sometimes nature reminds them of what happened nine days ago and the fear takes over again, such as during aftershocks like the magnitude-5 temblor felt here Sunday. EFE