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‘My God, it’s an earthquake, it’s not stopping’

/ Source: NBC, and news services

Survivors of the massive earthquake in Chile told of their ordeal on Saturday.

Eben Harrell, a London-based Time magazine journalist who was visiting Santiago, told NBC's TODAY that he was in his hotel when the building started shaking and he realized, "Oh my God, it's an earthquake... it's not stopping."

The hotel was evacuated and he saw a number of cracks in the building.

People were allowed to return and were "huddled in the lobby" when an aftershock struck, sending them back into the street.

Harrell added there was "a lot of broken glass" on the street. Outside, he had met a man who said he had had a narrow escape.

"He was in a cab on his way back to his hotel when a church collapsed and the debris shattered the (hood) of his cab and cut him on the face," Harrell told TODAY.

He described the experience as "very frightening."

Swaying on 23rd floor
Sylvia Dostal of Keizer, Ore., was staying on the 23rd floor of the Marriott Hotel on President Kennedy Avenue in Santiago.

"I had been in earthquakes before, including the San Francisco Loma Prieta quake, but this was different. The building was swaying AND moving up and down!" she wrote to

"We made our way to the emergency stairs, since elevators where out of the question. For a few seconds, everything went black, as power failed us. Thank God the emergency generators were on, and we continued our journey down 23 floors."

She said people gathered outside the building, disoriented, as aftershocks hit.

"No one wanted to go back to their rooms. Somehow, we felt that if we were together, it was not so bad."

Juan Ureta, a freelancer who works for NBC in Santiago, said the city was "chaotic at the moment, although it is still functioning."

"Some of the roads coming into the city have been cut off. Some of the by-passes have come down," he said. "Old buildings have come down, and main avenues have been closed because of the downed buildings."

Loreto Azocar of Santiago said she had gotten back to her fifth-floor apartment early in  the morning just before the quake struck. She and a neighbor made their way downstairs to find a chaotic scene.

"Everybody was shocked, with nothing but their pajamas," she wrote to "My legs and my body were shaking, phone lines collapsing, colors in the sky because power towers were exploding, people trying to contact their relatives ... it was a shocking background."

She said she was able contact her boyfriend and family to find that they had survived.

A factory security guard in Santiago told of disaster on a highway after a bridge fell.

“I saw how the cars fell off and I didn’t know what to do. I was alone here,” Mario Riveros told La Segunda newspaper. “I felt like crying.”

N.L. Hutchin, from Chevy Chase, Md., told there had been "severe shaking and several older buildings were destroyed" in the Brasil neighborhood of Santiago.

"Dust covers the city, but most people were calm. We spent several hours in the Plaza Brasil, went back into the apartment building on the 9th floor but ran out again with the 6.9 aftershock hit."

'It's like being on a boat'
Hutchin said the Happy Hotel Hostel sustained major damage.

"One whole side of the building fell away and we evacuated out the back entrance," Hutchin said. "The people have been wonderful here ... helping each other in any way.

"It is a bit difficult thinking about trying to sleep again. Another aftershock .... it is like being on a boat now, and it changes the view one has about permanency, and solidity."

Marco Vidal, a program director for Grand Circle Travel traveling with a group of 34 Americans, was on the 19th floor of the Crown Plaza Santiago hotel when the quake struck.

"All the things start to fall. The lamps, everything, was going on the floor. And it was moving like from south to north, oscillated. I felt terrified," he said.

Jen Ross, a journalist based in Santiago, told TODAY that she felt "three minutes of shaking."

"All the buildings here are made with concrete and are built ... to withstand earthquakes," she said.

"There is some structural damage, but our building is fine. Other buildings in Santiago have had more damage, some have completely collapsed.

"That’s not usual, particularly in a city that's built for strong earthquakes."

Cynthia Iocono, from Linwood, Pa., said she first thought the quake was a train.

"But then I thought, 'oh, there's no train here'. And then the lamps flew off the dresser and my TV flew off onto the floor and crashed," she said.

"It was scary, but there really wasn't any panic. Everybody kind of stayed orderly and looked after one another."

One man in Santiago, writing on the BBC's Web site, said there buildings there were "literally dancing in the air."

"I'm worried about the people who lives near Concepción, because their communications are broken down, so no one knows about the damage of a earthquake of that magnitude," he said.

As fears of a destructive tsunami spread across the Pacific, people in Hawaii started taking precautions.

"Sirens woke us up at 6 as the authorities began to clear the low-lying areas," Lynn Marko wrote to from Makaha Valley Plantation on Oahu, where she was staying. "Grocery stores were open very early so we got supplies.

Marko said the plantation is about a mile from the flood zone on the Waianae Coast.

"It seems as if most people have prepared early as they will close the roads at 10 a.m., Marko said. "Now all we can do is wait."