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posted: 2/28/2010 12:01 AM

Chilean relatives use the Internet to search for survivors

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With most phone towers down in Chile after Saturday's earthquake, many people with relatives there scrambled to locate them using the Internet.

Jennifer Conlin has a grandmother and several cousins who live in and near Santiago. Thanks to Facebook, she learned all her relatives were safe in just a few hours.

"My cousins said it was really scary, that they were literally heading for the hills," said Conlin, who lives in Madison, Wis., and graduated from Stevenson High School in 1995. "They said there was a lot of swaying and shaking. Everything that was on a wall is broken. But everyone is accounted for and that's what's important."

Conlin said her family members - including her 92-year-old grandmother - were planning to return to their homes to survey the damage today.

Silvia Cerda, owner of Rapa Nui Restaurant, a Chilean eatery in Chicago, was initially worried about her family in Santiago, but said she was eventually able to talk to them by phone and found out they were all right.

"Our family is fine," she said.

Still, she was worried about her daughter-in-law's family is in Curico, near Talca, where several buildings reportedly collapsed.

Meanwhile, Chicago area nonprofits groups said the best way to donate money to Chilean earthquake victims is to log on to their Web sites, including

"It's still very early, but once we get things set up we'll also probably have a survivor tracking system similar to the one we used in Haiti," said Jerry Holmes, a spokesman for American Red Cross of Greater Chicago. "But we're working with the information as we get it."

Catholic Relief Charities is keeping an eye on situation from an office in Bolivia, said John Rivera, acting communications director. "If asked to help, we will," Rivera said.

World Vision, a Christian charity that has offices in Chicago, is working to send emergency supplies and people to respond to the earthquake.

"It happened in the middle of the night, everyone was sleeping and there was no time to escape," Mariela Chavarriga, an emergency adviser with World Vision in Chile, said in a news release. "Many houses are destroyed even large buildings have collapsed. Main roads have been destroyed and communication is very difficult."

To help World Vision, visit or call (888) 562-4453.

Daily Herald staff writers Jameel Naqvi and Robert McCoppin contributed to this report.

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