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Page last updated at 16:31 GMT, Monday, 1 March 2010

Quake survivor tells of chaos and despair in Concepcion

A building in Concepcion, Chile destroyed by an earthquake
The 8.8 magnitude earthquake destroyed buildings across the city

Ricardo was at his grandmother's house in Concepcion at the time of the earthquake. Concepcion is Chile's second largest city and is in the worst-hit area.

When the earthquake struck I woke up, ran to the door and found my grandmother standing in the hall. We knew what to do: get under a doorframe and wait - but this quake felt like it lasted for hours.

My grandmother's house has two storeys and is about 50 years old, but apart from a cracked wall, it withstood the tremors well.

During the quake the power was cut, so when it was finally over we went out into the dark street, lit only by the full moon.

The phones and the gas supply were also off. The water supply lasted a few hours longer.

People were gathering in the street, tuning into their car radios for local news.

With each aftershock - and there were more than 90 over the next few hours - we felt everything was going to start again.

Hospital shortages

An hour after the quake my sister - who also lives in Concepcion - rang to tell me that she and my other sister were OK.

Later that morning hospital staff asked for water because their supply was cut off. The A and E department was flooded so they were treating emergencies in the car park.

Some debris fell on my baby's crib and broke it in half. Fortunately she was sleeping with her mum

The sound of ambulances, police cars and firemen did not stop all day.

I saw some of the city when I went with my sister's boyfriend to pick up some things from his flat.

Most of the old houses were flattened, more shocking was all the new buildings with cracked walls and tilting floors.

One office building more than 20 storeys high was listing to one side, and another building, less than a year old, was completely flattened.

I learned later that an old classmate of mine lived there, I still don't know what's happened to him.

I managed to speak to the mother of my daughter who lives in Talcahuano, 15 minutes from Concepcion - they were OK.

Some debris fell on my baby's crib and broke it in half. Fortunately she was sleeping with her mum at that moment.

We spent the day trying to get hold of friends and family. We heard that prisoners had escaped from the jail, and started learning of the hundreds of people who had died.

On Sunday morning the looting began and the city became dangerous, so we decided to go to our parents in Los Angeles, a two-hour drive away.

An angry mob had burned down a petrol station when they were denied fuel

The problem was finding fuel. Petrol stations had no electricity so couldn't pump. Some of them had been attacked by the mob, so the owners refused to use the emergency systems to provide fuel.

The few petrol stations that were operating were giving priority to emergency vehicles. In a city called Lota - 50 km away from Concepcion - an angry mob had burned down a petrol station when they were denied fuel.

We managed to fill up our tanks because my sister's boyfriend works in the city council.

In the petrol station we heard traumatic stories from policemen who had been in a gun battle the previous night trying to control the mob.

We also spoke to a friend who knows the owner of a construction company. He is in despair over one of his apartment blocks which collapsed. He can't understand what went wrong and feels suicidal about the people who were inside.

As we were leaving the city we saw people queuing for water, supplies and fuel. We also saw people looting stores and supermarkets, walking away with TV sets and refrigerators.

The roads were OK, apart from a few cracks. Now, on Monday, Los Angeles is getting back to normal, but Concepcion is a different story.





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