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Chile earthquake: Northern Ireland missionary cracks ribs while fleeing

A Santiago-based missionary from Northern Ireland was forced to live in his car for three days after the devastating earthquake in Chile.

Jonathan Rea from Cullybackey narrowly escaped death and serious injury when the massive 8.8 magnitude quake shook buildings in the Chilean capital for 90 terrifying seconds last month.

The 35-year-old’s home was just over 300km from the epicentre of the huge earthquake, which struck early on February 27.

He evacuated his wife and children Timothy Pablo (5) and Emmy (13) out of the city where buildings had collapsed and bridges buckled. They spent three nights sleeping in the foothills of the Andes mountains in their car.

In the initial panic, Mr Rea suffered fractured ribs while trying to save Timothy Pablo from being crushed by a chest of drawers.

His father Pastor Eddie Rea said: “The earthquake went off at about six in the morning and Jonathan had to throw himself under the chest of drawers to protect his son.

“They had just finished the holiday Bible club and because they had three guests staying in the house, their son Timothy Pablo was sleeping on a mattress on their floor. Jonathan suffered a few cracked ribs but other than that he was unhurt. His wife and children escaped uninjured.

“They just had to get out as quick as possible. The wardrobes came crashing down and all their stuff was thrown across the floor. I think they had some difficulties getting out of the house because their stuff had blocked the exit.

“The perimeter wall of the house crashed down. They spent three nights out on the street. They lived in their car. As soon as they got out he took the car clear of any buildings so that it wouldn’t be damaged.”

While the Reas escaped with their lives the carnage they witnessed has taken its toll.

Pastor Rea added: “Timothy Pablo is too young to understand but Emmy is a bit nervous now. The problem is the aftershocks. We talk to the them on the phone regularly and he will say to me ‘she’s moving again’. Some of them have measured as much as 6.2 on the Richter scale.

“It is worrying but the way I look at it, is he’s safer in the hands of God in Santiago than he is walking down Ballymena street out of the will of God.” Pastor Rea is proud his son has insisted on staying in Chile.

“He’s due back here for two months in December but that’s it. Under no circumstances will he be giving up the missionary work,” he added.

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