Irishman tells how he got out of hostel 'by the skin of my teeth'
Published 02/03/2010 | 05:00
AN IRISHMAN in Chile has told how he escaped "by the skin of my teeth" when his hostel was obliterated by the earthquake that has devastated whole areas of the country.
The Department of Foreign Affairs last night confirmed that 28 Irish citizens are believed to be still in the region but so far there have been no reports of any casualties among them.
One of these, Phil Moore (32), from Drumcondra in Dublin, had only arrived in the Chilean capital of Santiago last Tuesday to teach English -- just four days before the massive earthquake struck.
"I escaped by the skin of my teeth," he told the Irish Independent.
"When I first felt the shaking, I just stayed in bed thinking, 'This feels like an earthquake, but it can't be because earthquakes don't happen to me'. Besides, nobody else in the room was stirring.
"After about 15 seconds, the tremors began to pick up in frequency and amplitude. The ceiling started to rain down and everybody was suddenly stirring.
"I was the first to the door. I admit I didn't take any time to make sure that everyone else in the room was following suit. I didn't even assume it. It just didn't cross my mind.
"Outside on the landing, the ceiling and roof were chucking down in heavy chunks and crashes of dust and powder. Some of the heavier chunks missed me by feet and inches.
"With all the dust and no glasses, I was close to blind but that didn't stop me from running like hell down the two flights of stairs.
"Getting to the front door couldn't have taken more than 45 seconds.
"As I got to it, I had a second of panic as I realised it opened with a buzzer.
"I was worried about the power, but I pressed it and it opened, so we spilled out onto the street. The tremors had all but passed at that point.
"Outside the hostel, the ground was covered with broken masonry, something I discovered with my feet before I did with my bare and glassless eyes. There was a cloud of dust.
"At that moment, I thought Santiago was in ruins. But the dust quickly cleared and settled and I was able to see that the rest of the neighbourhood was relatively intact."
Despite his narrow escape, Phil has no plans to leave Chile. His father, John Moore (76), said he first heard about the quake on the radio when he woke up on Saturday morning.
"At that point, I got a text message from Phil saying he had just managed to escape. He said he was okay and would ring me later on."
John added: "He was very lucky. The pictures of his hostel say it all."