Michigan woman's family in middle of earthquake damage in Chile

Alicia Van Pelt has made contact with brother in Arica


PLYMOUTH, Mich. – Sitting, waiting, wondering and hoping.

Alicia Van Pelt of Plymouth has been glued to the coverage of the earthquake and tsunami in Chile because her family is in the middle of it. 

"You just get so nervous because you never know what's going on or what's happening," Van Pelt told Local 4.

A massive 8.2-magnitude earthquake struck the northern coast of Chile Tuesday night, with a tsunami to follow. It was all close to Arica -- where Van Pelt's brother, Patrico, his wife and their 3-year-old daughter live.



"The city of Iquique, the earthquake's epicenter, happened right next door to where they live," Van Pelt said. 

In the city of Arica, the mayor reported some minor injuries and said some homes made of adobe were destroyed. 

From phone calls, to Facebook, to television – Alicia has stayed connected, waiting to hear from her brother. She was able to finally make a connection by cellphone, but it was only for minutes. It was long enough for Van Pelt to find out that her brother was alive, but also to learn his family had been separated. 


"His wife had been at work and their little girl was with the babysitter. She is just three years old," said Van Pelt. "But the babysitter knew to bring blankets, flashlights and water because who knows how long they'd be stuck."

Van Pelt said she did eventually learn that her sister-in-law had been reunited with the babysitter and her daughter.  

"I can't imagine the feeling of not knowing where your child is for hours," Van Pelt said. "But they still can't go home. They've been sleeping out in the open, shelters, some schools did open for that purpose." 

But while Van Pelt's nerves had settled, she still fears the unknown. 

"The worst thing is the not knowing, even now because this is the time the after-shocks continue," said Van Pelt. "It could still get worse." 

Van Pelt was born in southern Chile, but has called Michigan home for 46 years and graduated from the University of Michigan.