Chilean soldiers serving with the United Nations mission to Haiti watched in horror as pictures of the earthquake back home came up on television screens at their temporary barracks.
The troops are in Haiti to help post-earthquake reconstruction efforts there.
Contacting loved ones back home has not been easy.
“Our immediate reaction was to help troops get in touch with their families,” said Commander in Chief, Lieutenant Colonel Hugo Rodriguez Gonyales. “The ones from the south of Chile were among the first to call.”
“It’s hard but any Chilean soldier’s mission is to stay where he’s needed,” explained Lieutenant Colonel Guillermo Paiva.
“I would like to be with my family in Chile. But my duty calls me here. I’m calm because I know my family will be OK. We have to keep working to help the Haitians get over the great grief this country is going through.”
The quake may not have been as strong in Haiti, but in the poorest country of the Americas, the buildings were less able to withstand it and the effect was devastating.
Whole towns and even the presidential palace were reduced to rubble. The death toll currently stands at 220,000 with some 1.2 million people still homeless.