Missing brother deepens family’s anguish


For Fanny Munoz, there is a seemingly endless wait to discover whether her brother, missing since a quake and tsunami struck Chile on Saturday, will be found – or appear on the list of dead.


The only good news she has had since Saturday’s monster quake, which let loose a tsunami that all but wiped her town off the map, is that so far, her brother David Vazquez Munoz has not turned up on the list of the dead released by a makeshift morgue.

“He is the only member of our family who is missing,” wept the 43-year-old housewife, after checking again to see if her brother’s name was on the handwritten list of 51 local people now confirmed dead.

“We haven’t heard from him since the night of the earthquake and the tsunami. He was out on the island” just off the coast that took the brunt of the tsunami’s force.

“He was there with some friends who died. One of them was buried yesterday. And there were two kids there who died as well, a 10-year-old boy and an 8-year-old girl,” added Pavez Labbe.

Frantic to get information, the two women went to the stadium in the town of 45,000 where the gym has been turned into a temporary morgue.

Then they scrambled to a medical-legal office after hearing the morgue might be shut down.

And then they waited for news after hearing a body had been found in the river.

Both women lost their homes, but that was the last thing on their minds.

Behind them, another woman burst out sobbing as she learned a relative was among those killed.

Locals wearing surgical masks to try to block out the strong smell of death tried to comfort her.

Munoz and Pavez Labbe said they refused to give up hope.

“We have faith in God, and we are asking him to bring David home,” said Munoz.

The tsunami that followed Saturday’s massive 8.8-magnitude quake caused devastation in numerous seaside villages.

In Pelluhue, a seaside resort transformed into a sandy wasteland without warning, one giant wave came, then another, and scores of homes disappeared.

The further Chilean emergency services venture, the more grim discoveries they make.

“This part was full of houses. There were more than 100,” said Silvia Aparicio, a community leader, pointing to the Pelluhue beachfront.

“And that’s nothing compared to what happened in the Marisquero,” she added of a nearby district named after the shell fisherman who once lived here.

Many tourists were asleep in their beds when the deafening roar came from nowhere.

“There was no warning. The waves surged in 40 minutes after the earthquake which took place at 3:25 am,” said Aparicio, who lives at the far end of the town.

“There were two, then a bigger one. The sound was deafening,” she said.

Four days after the quake, Pelluhue, some 300km from Santiago, remains a scene of desolation and sorrow.

Fallen tree trunks blocking a road testify to the fury of the tsunami that firefighters say swept away several hundred houses in all along the coast.

So far, rescue workers have counted 57 dead in Pelluhue and another 28 in nearby Curenipe, both close to the epicentre of the quake.

The official death toll stands at around 800, but the number is expected to rise sharply as emergency rescue and relief crews uncover the extent of the devastation wrought by the quake and the tsunami.

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