Monday, March 26, 2012

Shaken, Rattled and Rolled!

We have had a fun weekend, we have!

At 4:30 on Saturday morning, the whole city was woken up by quite a NICE little earthquake - it was only a 5.1, but it was also only 41 km away, and it rang us like a bell.
We felt two great bangs, as if our building had been hit with a huge sledgehammer, and a great roar with each one, and much vibration after each - like a struck bell vibrating until it dampens down.

I felt the first one in a dream and woke up to the after-shaking, and the second one hit while I was solidly awake and when it stopped Mr Tabubil and I lay still, waiting to see if there would be any more.  And it was some time before we went back to sleep.

So that was Saturday.

Today we went out to lunch with friends, and everyone was inspired to talk about earthquakes - we heard hair-raising stories about the 8.8 quake in 2010 - which is still big conversation here a year later. My friend Alba and her husband Sebastian live on the 10th floor of their building - they were having a party when it hit.  Sebastian told us "There were 50 people in our flat - so imagine 50 people's worth of wine glasses and wine bottles and water glasses and water bottles going smashing to the floor." 
The quake started small - and then grew, and the power went out, so Alba staggered to the kitchen for candles, and then it grew so big that Sebastian herded everyone into the point of the apartment where three door-frames and two structural walls met, and they sheltered there while the shaking and the roaring grew and picked them up and tossed them and threw them from wall to wall to wall.  Drifts of smashed glass were washing across the floor, back and forth, hissing on the tiles, and the earthquake was roaring, and outside, the dark was lit up by red and yellow explosions as power transformers blew up, and right in front of them, while they watched, a wall split open from floor to ceiling.

It was quite a night.

Another couple we know live on the third floor of a very small building and got down and outside during the quake, and afterwards, they climbed back upstairs to change their pajamas for real clothes, and packed backpacks full of water bottles and apples (which is what they had to share) and spent the night hiking across town to see if anyone needed help.  All the way through the city they had to step around sheets of smashed glass and fallen lumps of concrete the size of dining tables.

It's a damn good thing that that earthquake happened at night.  If it had happened during the day when people were out and on the streets - there would have been a terrible terrible mess.

At any event, we came home this evening feeling quite happy that the local tectonic plates had had their big stretch-out before we arrived.

And then tonight, at about half past seven, I stepped out of the kitchen into the living room where Mr Tabubil, who'd been sorting power cables for his electronic bits and pieces, was sitting upright on the sofa.
"Did you feel that?"
"Feel what?"
"Maybe it's dying down."
"Maybe. Is that -?"
The ceiling light was starting to swing and the floors were shaking - lowly, the way they often do, for we get many tremors here. They shudder,or they bang, and then they peter out, but this one started to build.  I looked out the window and the bamboo blinds on our bedroom balcony were swinging back and forth and then the BALCONY was swinging back and forth and the trees in the street were swaying and blowing and inside I could hear rattling in the kitchen as the plates and glasses danced in the cupboards. The whole solid world was turned to jeopardy - shaking and rattling and jumping; NOTHING was solid or stable or safe and Mr Tabubil looked at me and said "NOW." and picked me up by the shoulders and we danced across the shaking floor and landed in the doorway to our bedroom and it felt utterly, completely, helplessly inadequate.

It lasted a long time. We stood there, Mr Tabubil with his arms tight around my shoulders, until it stopped. 
And THEN I was frightened. There wasn't any time for it during - I had to worry about how I'd find shoes if glass began to smash, and how we'd get out during the shaking if it grew any worse -
So I had a little shake of my own and had to sit down for a minute while the adrenalin wore off!

The final verdict was a 7.1.  And THAT is quite a quake!  There has been very little damage, and only one reported death, an elderly woman from a heart attack.  Chileans build their buildings WELL.

There were some evacuations on the coast, but for precaution only.  The sea receded in places, but there were no tsunami warnings - and no tsunamis. 
But that's how it goes, you know?  If the ground shakes, you go uphill. 
And for some reason, many Chileans didn't learn that after the Asian Tsunami in in 2004- and they died here when they wouldn't go uphill on 2010.  Sebastian had a friend who was on the coast when it happened.  He ran for the hills, and he lived.  A man who'd stood next to him said "My car is down on the beach!" 
Sebastian's friend looked at him and said "You're crazy!  RUN!" 
But the man went for his car - and he died.

They all know now.  The ground shakes and they go uphill.

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