Pittsburgh-led Jewish trip stranded off Chilean coast

The Jewish Chronicle
March 4, 2010

A group of 16 Jewish adventure-seekers returning from a trip to Antarctica found themselves stranded on Easter Island for several days in the wake of Chile’s massive earthquake, which hit last Saturday.

The group of Jewish singles led by Pittsburgher Malori Asman of Amazing Journeys had just finished their 12-day tour of Antarctica, and had stopped at Easter Island for a three-day extension of their vacation.

Easter Island is a Chilean territory, lying some 2,100 miles west of Continental Chile. Following the Feb. 27 earthquake, the island was under a tsunami warning, and no flights were available for days.

On what they thought was their last day on Easter Island, the group was preparing to watch the sunrise before flying to Santiago and heading home.

“The group wanted to see the moais [rock carvings] at sunrise so I arranged a motor coach to pick up the group from the hotel at 6:30 a.m. today, just before our afternoon flight to Santiago,” wrote Asman in an e-mail on Saturday. “We got a ‘wake up knock’ at 6 a.m. and all but three passengers were coming with us. One of my clients who is hooked on Blackberry told us about the earthquake and the tsunami warning that was for Easter Island.

“Just as I was processing what to do (head for the hills), the bus and driver and our guide showed up. I had the group get their medicines, passports and any food they had, and we woke up those who were not coming with us this morning for the sunrise tour. Sirens were going off and loudspeakers were sounding the tsunami warnings. …”

Asman said she was eager to get her group on the bus and head for a higher elevation.

“[W]e went straight up a hill and met a major portion of the population up there,” she wrote. “In addition to the food and passports, I grabbed toilet paper rolls! Always prepared! We stayed on the mountaintop for several hours and watched a beautiful sunrise.

“We saw tons of boats heading out to sea to avoid the possible tsunami. Finally, the Navy plane flew overhead and dipped its wings to give us the ‘all clear’ permitting us to go back down to sea level.

Asman was told on Saturday that no flights would arrive on Easter Island for at least 72 hours. She immediately secured hotel rooms for her group.

The group settled in, made havdala and had a Purim party Saturday night.

On Monday morning, the group finally got the news it had been waiting for: a plane would arrive that evening to take it to Santiago.

The group arrived in Santiago early Tuesday morning was hoping to board planes for Miami Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning.

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by Toby Tabachnick, March 4, 2010, The Jewish Chronicle