CONSTITUCIÓN, Chile (BP)--As the house trembled, Chilean pastor Juan Mauricio Muñoz prayed with his wife, son and a young woman who was staying with them. When the 8.8-magnitude earthquake was over, they were shaken but unharmed.
But the worst was yet to come. Though no tsunami warning was issued, the pastor knew to expect a wave.
"We were always taught from a young age that in any kind of earthquake, you go to high ground," he said.
He rushed his family to the car, headed to his daughter's home at a higher elevation in this seaside city of Constitución, 164 miles south of Santiago.
As they were leaving, the pastor glanced across the Maule River toward an island where approximately 200 Chileans had been enjoying a late-night party. He saw the lights of nearly 30 cell phones waving frantically as partygoers trapped on the island tried to signal for help.
By then the water was rising into the street and around the wheels of his car -- evidence that the 10-foot wave was quickly approaching. Horrified, Muñoz realized it was too late to help the people on the island.
Only three survived.
Just days after the Feb. 27 tragedy, Muñoz, pastor of Iglesia Bautista de Constitución (Constitución Baptist Church), showed the devastation in his neighborhood to a disaster assessment team of Southern Baptist and Chilean Baptist officials. Standing on the concrete slab where his home used to be, he fought back tears and recounted how the wave flattened everything on the waterfront. Like most of his neighbors, he lost a place to live and most of his belongings.
A street block of houses was gone. One of the family's cars was found almost three blocks uphill from his home. In one place, the water had crushed one building into the next. Read More