Wash. quake survivor: 'The scariest experience of my life'


by Owen Lei / KING 5 News


Posted on February 28, 2010 at 11:18 AM

Updated Sunday, Feb 28 at 8:23 PM

DES MOINES, Wash. -- Steve Botkin just came home from visiting his daughter Sarah last week, and knew well the condition of the old, three-story house in Santiago, Chile, where she was living.

So when he heard a magnitude 8.8 earthquake had hit off the coast of the South American country, the Des Moines man had thoughts of the worst-case scenario.

"I just kind of immediately flashed back to the Haiti earthquake and the stories of the dads around here with daughters and kids in Haiti and what they had to go through, and just [thought], 'Wow, this is happening to me,' and wondering if she was okay or if she's trapped right now," said Botkin.

Thanks to a Web cam and the Internet program Skype, Botkin was able to get ahold of Sarah fairly quickly, and she tells KING 5 "It was the scariest experience of my life, just a violent shake, my thought was the house was going to come falling down."

The quake started around 4:30 a.m. local time in Santiago.  Botkin said she happened to get up right before it hit, and ran to the nearest doorway.

"The room started shaking violently, it turned from a sway to shaking violently," she said. "The windows came open, the books started falling off the shelves... and there was a big flash and the electricity went out."

Sarah, 27, has spent about the last year teaching English in Chile.  She said, walking around her area, she did not see widespread damage, but the aftermath of the earthquake was clearly visible.

"You walk through the neighborhood and everything's normal," Sarah said. "But then ... there's some buildings where it's just, I mean, absolutely crumbled to the ground, and the family's sitting outside with their belongings and their families waiting for this to pass."

Meanwhile, Steve Botkin said he's glad his daughter escaped the quake unscathed.  Until recently, she had been living in Concepcion, a city much harder hit than Santiago.

"She dodged a bullet. An 8.8 earthquake is a once in a lifetime event," he said.  "I hope."