Former Valley journo shaken by earthquake

A Latrobe Valley man caught up in last week’s 8.3-magnitude earthquake in Chile has described the experience as “nerve-wracking”.

Former Express journalist Jarrod Whittaker said the Santiago building in which he was teaching at the time shook for about five minutes during the earthquake, which struck before 8pm Wednesday local time (9am Thursday AEST).

“I was in the middle of class in my student’s building on the 13th floor when it started to shake and my student said ‘terremoto!’ (earthquake in Spanish),” Mr Whittaker said.

“The building was moving quite strongly in both directions and it kept up for five minutes.

“After a couple of minutes you’re thinking it’s going to stop and then it continues and you wonder if it’s going to stop or if it’s the big one.”

He said he was put at ease by the tranquil reaction of the Chileans, who experienced a devastating 8.8-magnitude earthquake in 2010.

After riding out the earthquake in the solid central part of the building in the south of the Chilean capital, Mr Whittaker quietly evacuated with his student and their family to a meeting point near the building.

“They were quite relaxed and they said it wasn’t as big as the one five years ago and that put me at ease,” he said.

“I thought well these guys are veterans and don’t appear to be bothered in the slightest.

“The buildings were designed to withstand these kinds of things. They’re well engineered and there’s a lot of give in them.

“This is a country that’s well prepared for this eventuality.”

After returning home to his apartment, Mr Whittaker, who has lived in Chile teaching English for the past 15 months, was bombarded with messages from family and friends back in Australia concerned about his safety.

The earthquake’s epicentre was more than 200 kilometres northwest of Santiago.

Chile is one of the world’s most earthquake-prone countries and Mr Whittaker says he feels large tremors of between four and six-magnitude “every two months”.

Dozens of people were killed or injured in last week’s earthquake.