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Chile Earthquake

Chileans Respond Calmly to Quake: 'We're Used To It'

Image: CHILE-EARHTQUAKE

A photo taken on Wednesday shows the chaos created at the Riquelme Cove, in Iquique, northern Chile, after a powerful 8.2-magnitude earthquake hit off Chile's Pacific coast. ALDO SOLIMANO / AFP - Getty Images

After experiencing several hundred quakes in the past two weeks, many Chileans weren’t overly rattled by last night’s magnitude-8.2 quake and the aftershocks that followed.

They’re well-schooled and well-prepared -- and while they feared for family members -- the aftermath was apparently remarkably calm, as police, military and firemen came onto the streets immediately.

"For about 15 to 20 days, there had already been talk that an earthquake tsunami was on its way," said Christian Montano. He said he turned off the gas and locked up his restaurant after the initial quake hit and then quickly walked 12 blocks to his apartment where his 17 and 9-year-old daughters were home alone. "Recently, every day we've had earthquakes so we're used to it."

"I rushed home because I was thinking of my girls all alone in the apartment," said the owner of Sumapuriwa, a restaurant in the port city of Iquique near the quake's epicenter.

The northern region, which is already in an earthquake zone, has seen days of almost constant tremors, residents say.

"Some people were crying [on the streets] but mostly they were calm," the 39-year-old restaurateur said.

Image: A soldier guards a gasoline station after a tsunami hit the northern port of Iquique
A soldier is seen guarding a gasoline station after a tsunami hit the northern port of Iquique, Chile on April 2, 2014. Reuters

Another key, said business school student Jorge Oyarce, was the quick official reaction -- first responders and armed forces flooded the streets as soon as the quake hit and tsunami sirens began to wail.

"Officials have taken measures, like putting armed forces on the streets to backup the police and prevent looting," the 30-year-old said.

The government sent backup troops to the region almost immediately after they were declared disaster zones.

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Oyarce, who stayed in his seventh-floor office during the quake and its aftermath, said he was scared but able to stay calm. He received a relatively constant flow of information because the building he was in had a generator that kicked in when city power went down, and his 3G cellphone worked most of the night.

He was even able to talk to his mother in the city of Valparaiso, he said.

Planning was key to Maria Roxana Zapata, manager of the Panamericana Hotel in Arica, another hard-hit city. She admitted that she felt "the normal fear one would after living through an 8.2 magnitude quake that lasts two minutes."

Nevertheless, people knew what to do pretty automatically, she said.

"The whole population is used to earthquakes," Zapata said. "And in a very strong earthquake where one loses their balance, everybody immediately knows to evacuate to the hills by themselves."

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