Long Islanders try to reach relatives in Chile

Kiko Orellana talks about his family, many of

Kiko Orellana talks about his family, many of who still live in Chile. (February 27, 2010) (Credit: Photo by John Dunn)

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Long Islanders with ties to Chile had varying degrees of luck in their often desperate attempts to reach relatives early Saturday.

Levittown resident Kiko Orellana was on the phone minutes after the quake struck at 1:30 a.m. Eastern time, hoping to reach his sisters and father-in-law. They live in the capital, Santiago, about 200 miles northeast of the epicenter.

"I've been calling since this morning and I haven't been able to get through," he said Saturday.

He finally reached his father-in-law, but had no luck getting through to his four sisters.

Kings Park resident Jorge Fredes was luckier. Just minutes after the disaster, his brother in Arizona called to say their mother, Graciela Fredes, of Santiago, had phoned to say she was fine.

"Although she didn't have any electricity, at least we knew she was OK," said Jorge Fredes, the father of a Newsday employee.

Long Island is home to about 3,200 people of Chilean descent, according to census data. Those with relatives in the quake-prone country are dealing with the aftermath of the most powerful tremor to rock Chile since 1960.

At least 214 people died in the latest disaster, and officials are warning that the numbers will rise. The quake has set off tsunami warnings for every nation around the Pacific Ocean, roughly a quarter of the globe, The Associated Press reported.

Graciela Fredes, 85, who splits her time between Santiago and Long Island, is one of the lucky ones. She said she was awakened by the jolt and the sound of things breaking outside, but her apartment wasn't damaged.

"I am not afraid," she said. "A quake can come at any time, but what are you going to do?"

At Chilean food specialty shop San Antonio Bakery on Rockaway Avenue in Valley Stream, people gathered to watch a Chilean news channel on a big-screen TV.

Cristina Banados of East Hampton was able to reach her parents in Casablanca right after the quake, but has had no luck since.

"Everybody's scared," said her husband, Raul Banados, of the people back home. "No one wants to go back to sleep."

He said that all the relatives they have reached are safe, but he added, "This is hard for everybody here today."

Ximena Russell of Valley Stream, who was having lunch with her sister at the bakery, said she spoke to her family in Vina del Mar, but she is concerned about aftershocks.

Jennifer Acevedo, 22, whose parents own Juanito Deli and Bakery down the street, said they are still trying to reach family in San Antonio, Chile. Steve Gonzalez of Glen Cove had no luck in trying to reach his uncle Jorge, 73, a retired commercial fisherman who lives in Santo Domingo.

But Cristian Sandoval, 33, a designer colorist at Tru Salon in St. James, got good news about his grandparents, uncles and others through a cousin's video connection. "As far as we know, everyone is OK," said Sandoval, who is from Vina del Mar.

With Stacey Altherr and Jennifer Gundersen

OTHER MAJOR EARTHQUAKES

These registered at least magnitude 8.6:

9.5 An earthquake in southern Chile and ensuing tsunami kills at least 1,716 people. May 22, 1960.

9.2 The quake that hits Prince William Sound, Alaska, on March 27, 1964, and ensuing tsunami kills 128.

9.1 A strike off the Indonesian island of Sumatra on Dec. 26, 2004, triggers a tsunami that kills 226,000 people in 12 countries.

9.0 Arica, Peru (now Chile) is struck on Aug. 13, 1868. The quake generates catastrophic tsunamis; more than 25,000 are killed in South America.

9.0 Areas in current-day Northern California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia are shaken on Jan. 26, 1700. The temblor triggers waves that damage villages in Japan.

9.0 On Nov. 4, 1952, an earthquake in Kamchatka causes damage but no reported deaths, despite setting off 30-foot waves in Hawaii.

8.8 The earth shakes near the coast of Ecuador and Colombia on Jan. 31, 1906, generating a tsunami that kills at least 500.

8.7 Valparaiso, Chile, is struck on July 8, 1730. At least 3,000 people die.

8.7 An estimated 60,000 people are killed in and around Lisbon, Portugal, by the quake and ensuing tsunami, on Nov. 1, 1755. Much of that city is destroyed.

8.6 On Aug. 15, 1950, a massive earthquake strikes Assam, Tibet, killing at least 780 people.

Sources: U.S. Geological Survey, Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology and WHO's International Disaster Database

- AP

PHOTOS: Massive earthquake in Chile; tsunami warnings across Pacific

VIDEO: Chile rocked by massive earthquake

COMPLETE COVERAGE: Chile earthquake and its aftermath

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Major earthquake hits Chile

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