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Many Utahns still trying to reach family in Chile

By Nicole Gonzales | Posted - Feb. 28, 2010 at 5:26 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY -- Thousands of Utah residents are worrying about relatives living in Chile the day after a major earthquake struck the country. Leaders in the Salt Lake Chilean community are now tasked with trying to get help back to their families.

We're seeing more and more pictures and video of the devastation in Chile. Those images are especially concerning for Utahns who haven't heard from relatives.

Kiko Cornejo hosts a radio show on Magia 106.1. He's been taking calls from fearful Utahns who haven't been able to contact relatives in Chile.

"They're telling me how sad they are. They're asking me if I have any other different ways to get in touch with their relatives in Chile," he said.

Cornejo finally got through to his family after a day of no luck. They're safe, but the Curico house he grew up in, about four hours south of Santiago, was destroyed.

"There's not any way to sleep over here, when I know they are sleeping in the street. I couldn't have breakfast this morning knowing they don't have anything to eat there," he said.

Cornejo says he wanted to fly home today, but the airport is closed. Also, he says the community here needs him.

Sunday afternoon, several Chilean community leaders met to organize relief efforts. They are working to get a website up. Monday they'll probably open a donation account at Zions Bank.

On Saturday, Spanish TV station Azteca America will host a telethon in conjunction with the Red Cross. Right now though, they just want to support all the Utahns feeling pain.

Julio Otay, executive president of the Utah Chilean Community, said, "Most of us, we know each other, we see each other. What we try to do is help each other."

For many, the fear grows as each day passes without any word from family. Jessica Castro says she hopes her grandparents are safe. "My dad's been trying to call them, but they haven't talked to him yet," she said.

Utah Chilean leaders hope to get more information from the nation about what their needs are. The LDS Church also hopes to send out aid within the next few days.

E-mail: ngonzales@ksl.com

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Nicole Gonzales

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