Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Still quaking...

After a year and a half in Chile we were beginning to think we had worked out all there was to know about daily life here, though it turned out we were mistaken... We had yet to experience our first proper earthquake.
For me and indeed all of us, earthquakes are not an everyday occurrence. In fact many people back in Europe joked that moving to Chile in 2010, the very year of the last major earthquake here, was a good plan as it was unlikely to recur too soon. Not quite apparently, and shortly after arriving there was often talk of the occasional tremor which I must admit I didn't always even notice, especially the nocturnal variety. However even I eventually identified moments when I could hear furniture shaking and of course have felt a number of small movements while we've been here, none of which had been particularly alarming. Until Sunday evening at around 7.30pm...
The girls and I were sitting in the kitchen finishing off dinner when suddenly DH called out from the living room that another tremor was beginning. He came rushing in while we all watched the walls sway from side to side, as if we were on water, first slowly then with greater force for what seemed like forever. Meanwhile we could hear shouts going on outside our door, cutlery and crockery rattling and more interminable rocking. At first we were faintly amused, though we were soon gripped by fear as we wondered whether to dive under the table or try to leave the building (we are on the fifteenth floor)... The nausea from the movement added to the terror provoked by having apparently no control over the situation was a powerful combination. DD1 was also frightened when she saw how worried we were though we tried to keep calm...DD2 meanwhile went on eating, blissfully unaware of any potential danger... In the end it only lasted forty seconds but they were among the longest and most anxious of my life. It was with enormous relief that I saw the building regain its stillness as my heart continued to pound away in my chest. Thank goodness construction here takes seismic activity into account... If we can withstand 7.2 degrees on the Richter scale I think we can be fairly reassured our building isn't going to crumble as in a disaster movie...unless we are very unlucky. However I still had a very sleepless night after that, every tiny sound or movement sending me into alert and am now more clued up on what to do in the event of any further quakes. Everyone here seems to be an expert on the matter but apparently the most common advice is not to leave one's building during a tremor, but to sit, crouch or lie near a robust piece of furniture which would serve as protection in the event of something falling from above. Previously there had never been time to get into any kind of safety position but this time was definitely different... Just hoping there won't be a next time.

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