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Cape Coral company provides after-quake aid

By Staff | Mar 6, 2010

A Cape Coral company is helping to rebuild after a powerful aftershock hit the Chilean city of Concepcion Friday morning, less than a week after a magnitude-8.8 earthquake struck on Saturday.
Turbine Generator Maintenance, Inc., a local company that repairs steam and gas turbine generators for private industries worldwide, was in Concepcion when the quake hit last weekend and is struggling to repair four out of five plants around the city — one of the plants was leveled by a tsunami.
Todd Feeley, TGM’s vice president of sales and marketing, said his team is trying to bring power back to the country. They will stay as long as it takes to rebuild, he added.
“Power generation is a big part of getting them back on their feet,” he said via cellphone Friday.
Those still in the country have felt aftershocks all week, he explained, including a magnitude-6.9 quake which hit Friday at 6:47 a.m. EST, according to a report from the Associated Press.
Telecommunications, including his own cell phone, are mostly inoperative but service varies by city, he said. On Friday afternoon he stopped his car in a small community outside of Concepcion where he managed to get service.
Earthquakes measured on the Richter Magnitude Scale are numbered from 1 to 10, and Chile’s record-setting earthquake last week was only two points away from being considered epic. Geologists point out that an earthquake over magnitude 10 has never been recorded, and the devastation seen in January’s quake in Haiti was magnitude 7.
Chile’s coast lies on a major tectonic plate and, as a result, the country is affected by a lot of seismic activity. According to the United States Geological Survey, it experienced 13 events since 1973 that registered a magnitude 7 or greater.
Feeley, who was staying at his own apartment in an 11-story building, said TGM employees were working at a job site when it hit, while the rest of the company’s staff was at the Holiday Inn in Concepcion. It took two days for the workers to make it back to the rest of the group at the hotel.
“I was on the sixth floor of an 11-story building,” he said. “It felt like it was moving one foot in either direction and just about threw us out of bed.”
When the first quake struck in the afternoon on Feb. 27, furniture swung from side to side in his apartment while a nearby television crashed to the ground.
“I’ve never been terrified in my life until then,” he said.
He immediately jumped into his car and raced to the Holiday Inn to ensure his crew was safe, driving his car past downed bridges, burning cars and looters taking advantage of the destruction. People smashed the windows of a large grocery story and mall next door to the hotel until the police arrived with tear gas.
Before the military mobilized late Sunday and early Monday, Feeley said residents of Concepcion skirmished with police, and guests at the Holiday Inn decided to take shifts guarding the building to prevent anyone from breaking in. In the meantime, they collected their food and fuel, waiting until order was restored.
“I had a slice of ham, a slice of bread and cheese for breakfast, and about the same for dinner,” he said.
The entire crew later got lucky enough to get some seats on a military plane traveling to Santiago. Some teams have been returning to Concepcion to assess the damage and help to rebuild.
“In Concepcion things are worse than outside,” he said. “Coming from Santiago, down from today to where we are now, we saw a lot of rebuilding.”
The Associated Press reported 279 dead as of Friday and nearly as much are still missing. Family members of TGM employees in Chile have been sending updates via e-mail to those living in Cape Coral.