SANTIAGO, Chile — Saturday's massive quake left a Utah man vacationing in Chile in fear for his life.
Francisco "Pancho" Ovalle, a full-time youth coach who works for La Roca Soccer Club in northern Utah, was spending the night at a friend's seventh-floor apartment near downtown Santiago when the rumbling started.
A native Chilean who is accustomed to occasional small temblors, Ovalle remembered the quake's initial wave feeling fairly mild. Seconds later, the shaking turned violent.
Ovalle was terrified.
"It was the worst experience of my life," he said. "I thought I was going to die."
Ovalle said his fear was exacerbated by the screams erupting from neighboring apartments.
"I could hear people yelling and crying out, 'Please make it stop,' " he said.
Power was lost immediately, Ovalle said, leaving the Chilean capital largely in the dark. He rushed outside, jumped in a friend's car and made his way through the panic and sudden traffic to his mother's home nearby. She was fine.
Communication also proved problematic. Ovalle was unable to make phone contact with his worried wife, Trellis, at their Farmington home until hours after the quake.
When daylight arrived, he visited other sections of Santiago with his brother. In one poor section of the city, Ovalle saw collapsed buildings and overturned cars. One local hospital suffered severe damage.
Ovalle said the police and fire departments were working hard to preserve order in Santiago and head off looting.
"The people on TV were telling everyone to stay home and let (the police and fire departments) do their job," he said.
Ovalle said he was relieved that his family in Chile had plenty of water and other provisions. Food and emergency items in the local grocery stores disappeared quickly, and some stores were forced to close.
The Farmington man's heart was still racing hours after the early morning earthquake. He'd counted 43 aftershocks.
"The floor moves every 10 minutes," he said.
At 3:30 a.m. Saturday, Erika Villarreal woke up to the earth shaking around her.
She grabbed her husband, Christhian Tomaduz, their children, 3-year-old Lucas and 4-year-old Micaela, and Tomaduz's mother, Gloria Auguita, and huddled under a door frame of their Santiago home.
Around them they heard furniture crashing to the floor and plates shattering. "The whole earth was moving a lot, and we couldn't walk," Tomaduz told the Deseret News via an online chat. "We really thought everything was going down."
Even though they were nearly 200 miles from where the magnitude-8.8 earthquake struck Chile Saturday morning, the family and millions of others awoke with a jolt and now wait to find out how much damage was done.
"We felt like waves under our feet," said Tomaduz, who served a mission in Santiago for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and now lives there with his family. "It was horrible. … I don't ever want to live that again. We are OK, thank God, but very scared."
The building Tomaduz and his family live in survived, but Tomaduz said not all the surrounding buildings in Maipu, in the southwestern part of Santiago, were so lucky. Tomaduz's uncle lost his TV and fridge after the quake shook his 21st-floor apartment. Dirt houses collapsed, and bridges in Santiago are down.
"You don't have any idea what it feels like when the whole world is moving," he said. "I don't wish it on anybody. … I thought everything was going to be destroyed. I cannot explain in words how the house was moving. It was terrible."
Luisana Navarro, 25, was at a birthday party in Santiago with her boyfriend when the quake hit.
"I felt a quake," Navarro said. "It was very strong. It was terrible."
The birthday party was outside, so no one was injured by the few things that fell. But Navarro finds little comfort in that. She has heard nothing from some of her family.13 comments on this story
"I am fine in Santiago, but I am very concerned about my father in Rauco (a three-hour drive south of Santiago), where everything is supposedly destroyed," she said. "It's been difficult. … Seeing the news makes me sad."
Navarro, a member of the LDS Church, can't travel to her father because of road damage.
This story was reported from Salt Lake City.