Snowboarder and tour operator Richard Dass has told how he was caught up in the massive earthquake in Chile which left at least 12 people dead.
Richard, 48, of Marsh, was shopping in the Chilean capital Santiago when the quake struck.
“We were on the fourth floor of a seven-storey shopping centre when the floor started moving,” he said.
“I looked around and it seemed no one else had noticed. Then, after a few seconds, everyone started to realise what was happening.
“A wave of shock went round and people burst into tears.”
Birkby-born Richard, a former pupil at Salendine Nook High School, was with a friend and fellow tour company boss Mishy Cockayne.
The pair had been in Chile for three-and-a-half weeks, snowboarding and ski-ing on volcanoes.
Mishy was due to return to London and Richard had taken her for some last minute shopping.
Speaking from Santiago, Richard recalled the fear which spread throughout the Costanera shopping centre on Wednesday evening.
“Ceiling tiles were shaking and dust was coming off them,” he said. “Things were falling off the shelves and the whole building started to shake.
“It lasted for a minute and a half to two minutes and I tried to stay strong for Mishy.”
Eventually the couple were able to escape the building – with it still shaking – and got back to their car in the underground car park.
Richard tried to drive away but someone crashed into their hire car.
Aftershocks continued to hit and it was an hour before the couple were able to get away.
It was only later the full horror of the earthquake emerged. The quake, which measured 8.3 on the Richter scale, hit central Chile around Santiago and Valparaiso.
Dozens of aftershocks were followed by huge tsunami waves, which claimed at least 12 lives and left many people missing.
The couple were due for dinner near the epicentre of the quake on the coast near Valparaiso around the time the quake struck. Fortunately they were delayed by the shopping.
The coastal area was evacuated and the tsunami, when it hit, had waves of more than 15ft high.
Richard, an expert snowboarder, has been going to Chile since 2001. He went out there to try out the volcano slopes and fell in love with the country.
He came back to Huddersfield and set up his own tour company Snoventures.
Richard goes to Chile for between three and six months a year and experienced another earthquake in 2010.
There have been three in the last five years and Richard said: “All the buildings are constructed to cope with a quake of 20 on the Richter scale but there has never been a 10.
“Even the one in Thailand and Sri Lanka on Boxing Day 2004 was only about nine and that’s about as big as it gets.
“Everything is set up for earthquakes in Chile but it’s the tsunamis that can’t be planned for. They take all the lives.”
Mishy has now flown home and Richard, who planned to stay until November, may now return a couple of weeks early.
“It’s a fantastic country and the people are so friendly, especially to people from England and the UK,” he said. “It’s such a tragedy what’s happened.”