Chileans are cleaning up after a powerful, 8.8-magnitude earthquake over the weekend, killing hundreds of people and leaving thousands homeless, and a handful of Minnesotans are among those cleaning up.
Bill Thompson is a former 3M engineer who moved to South America after he retired nearly a decade ago. He and his wife, Ashi Arshadi, are in the town of Limache, about an hour's drive from the port city of Valparaiso on the country's west coast.
The quake hit just before 4 a.m. on Saturday.
"Well, we were sleeping, and started to hear the rumble, it woke up my wife first," Thompson said. "We rolled off onto different sides of the bed, onto the carpet, and it all started shaking in a huge thunderous roar. It just went on forever. They say it was almost two minutes."
Thompson said the ground was shaking so violently that he and his wife couldn't stand up.
But there was only minor damage in their home - some broken dishes and bottles and some furniture that moved around. Apart from a cracked wall in a neighbor's home, Thompson said their condominium development was largely undamaged.
He credited good building techniques in Chile and that country's previous earthquake experiences for the relatively light damage. That's compared to the catastrophe in Haiti in January.
"In Haiti, they said they didn't have reinforcing iron," Thompson said. "Well here those things are available. Commercial cement comes, and people do make their own, but do a little bit better job. There's a better understanding of construction, higher grade of construction here."
That's in part because Chile suffered an even stronger earthquake half a century ago. In 1960, the country was struck by a 9.5-magnitude earthquake, the most powerful ever recorded. Thousands were killed and it sent a 30-foot tsunami wave to Hawaii.
Bill Thompson said there was damage clearly visible from Saturday's quake.
He said police had cordoned off parts of downtown Limache, where older buildings were more heavily damaged -- particularly those that use traditional wood and adobe construction. He started to get a better look around town on Sunday, and said there's no civil unrest like that shown in video from Concepcion.
"Our little supermarket opened and it was full of people shopping," he said. "The registers were on generators. Lots of stains on the floor from all the bottles that had fallen and the displays all ajar, not much left on the shelves. But it was all very orderly. Never saw any police except for a few moving around the first day to do their jobs."
Chilean officials say they've counted about 700 dead so far, many of them victims of a coastal tsunami that swept ashore after the quake.