Local Chileans Shaken by Earthquake Back Home

Phone lines are down, but many are making contact online

By Anthony Ponce
|  Sunday, Feb 28, 2010  |  Updated 1:19 PM CDT
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Dramatic Photos: Earthquake Aftermath in Chile

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The 8.8 earthquake devastated parts of Chile, and left families in Chicago frantic to find out what happened to their loved ones.

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Chicago's Chileans React After Quake

Orietta Lippians Abad, her husband, Eddy, and Chicago's consul general of Chile, Jose Gonzalez, react to the earthquake.
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The shock wave from Chile's devastating earthquake is shaking the heart of Chicago's small but close-knit Chilean community.

"My dad is there, my sisters, my brother -- everybody are in Chile. I'm very worried," said Orietta Lippians Abad. "The telephone is dead. (On) the Facebook, I put 10 messages. Nothing. Nothing for me."

She and her husband are owners of the Rapa-Nui Chilean restaurant on the Northwest Side. They tried every means they could think of to contact their relatives -- phone, e-mail, Facebook, and Twitter. Finally, after 10 hours of searching, they got an instant message from Orietta's sister.

The family's house was destroyed, but everyone is OK.

Her husband's immediate family is also safe, but he was still trying to get word from all his relatives.

"I'm worried. I'm very, very worried for my family," Eddy Abad said.

Abad said that while there's strict building codes to protect against quakes, the 8.8 that hit Saturday is practically unprecedented.

Jose Gonzalez is Chicago's consul general of Chile. He's been fielding phone calls and e-mails from the local Chilean community almost constantly since 1:30 Saturday morning. His four children, who are back in Chile, are OK.

Gonzalez said most of his constituents have been able to contact family, thanks to technology.

"Facebook and Twitter are most incredible," he said.

The Chicago area's Chilean community is small -- about 800 people -- and the consul general said none have reported losing family members.

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