Lucky escape for non-swimmer swept away on Chile wave

Wed Mar 3, 2010 3:01pm EST
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By Terry Wade

CONSTITUCION, Chile (Reuters) - Bernardita Vives woke up to hell Saturday morning as Chile's huge earthquake sent bricks from her beach house tumbling down on her, breaking her right leg.

That was the beginning of her troubles.

As her neighbors ran for the hills surrounding the picturesque coastal town of Constitucion, Vives was trapped by her shattered leg and could only cry for help as mountainous tsunami waves rolled in and swept her away.

The 43-year-old non-swimmer survived after being washed up on a hill far from the ruins of her house.

"I survived because I just went with the wave, I counted my blessings and went. I was calm because I thought I was going to die," said Vives from her hospital bed.

Her ordeal left her with a broken collar bone, bruises and a large bloody scab on her right arm as well as a broken femur.

"At one point I grabbed onto power cables and that worked for a while until I felt myself being dragged under. Then I really thought it was over."

At least 350 people were killed in Constitucion by the 8.8-magnitude earthquake and the tsunami it triggered, and rescue officials say up to 500 people could still be missing here.   Continued...

<p>Tsunami survivor Bernardita Vives Cornejo gives an interview to Reuters as she receives treatment in a field hospital erected after a major earthquake and ensuing tsunami in Talca, March 3, 2010. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares</p>