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Willmar native shares experiences in Chilean quake

WILLMAR -- Gabriela Miller had never felt an earthquake before.

Early on the morning of Feb. 27, though, she found herself in the middle of one of the largest quakes ever recorded.

"To say that I have never felt something like that before is a complete understatement, no amusement ride could ever compare," Miller, 24, wrote in response to a request sent through Facebook. "Feeling the earth move beneath your feet and knowing that your home can't protect you, but actually (could) be what could harm you, is one of the worst sensations."

People always say that an earthquake feels like it goes on forever, she wrote, "but this earthquake actually did....lasting a whole three and half minutes, which is unheard of for earthquakes. Most earthquakes last a minute or two at the most."

Miller wrote that she was fortunate in that she and her family were unharmed in the quake. She was not in Santiago when the quake hit but was visiting her grandparents in Valparaiso, which she said is an hour and half car ride from Santiago and not near the epicenter of the quake.

"My family, friends and I are doing fine, still a little shaken," she wrote. "No one I know has sustained any major damage (or) has been seriously hurt. But nonetheless, we are all still scared from the tremors that still occur on daily basis and are in dread of the big aftershock that could occur any time."

Other areas were not as fortunate, she said, writing "Some cities were completely destroyed and that is where the majority of the catastrophes were."

Miller said her apartment had some cracks in the wall, but was otherwise OK.

"The biggest obstacle has been the electricity," she wrote. "We were fortunate to get ours back the morning after, but that isn't the case everywhere in Santiago. ... It is said that 20 percent of Santiago is still without electricity, nearly a million people."

Miller is a graduate of Willmar High School and of Concordia College in Moorhead. She speaks fluent Spanish and has been teaching English the past six months in Santiago. School was to have started again this week after a summer break, but it was delayed a week because of the quake damage.

She is the daughter of Gary Miller, a Tribune editor, and Sofia Miller, a Willmar teacher who is a native of Valparaiso.