“Hold on! It’s an Earthquake!” were the words I heard from my husband as we were violently shaken awake that fateful morning, a morning that will be etched in my memory for a long time to come.
Have you ever been in or experienced an Earthquake? I’ve felt a few minor quakes over the years, the ones where you say to whoever’s near you, “oh did you feel that?” or the ones where you happen to notice the light bulb that hangs from the ceiling is swaying. Then you listen with a little interest to the news of the day to find out where the quake was centred and what is measured on the Richter scale.
A few short weeks ago, on September 4th 2010, to be exact, my earthquakes experience suddenly changed forever. On that deftly still, coal-black, moonless morning at 4.35 am, in the middle of another ordinary night’s sleep, the terrifying event of my life began to unfold as the 7.1 magnitude quake began its unearthly assent to the surface of our city.
My husband’s instincts were to throw his arm over me to hold and protect me as the violent shaking & pitching tossed us & our bed in every manner of direction. The house conducted a cacophony of deafening noises as nails and joists departed company, each creek making it all the more frightening, terrifying would be more accurate.
Our ears were assaulted by an unbelievably thunderous train like roar as huge fissures opened up, allowing gasses from deep in the earth to escape, and the ground spewed up its contents, a porridge of wet silty grey sand which I now know is called liquefaction.
The noise continued and changed into shattering, breaking and crashing as doors slid violently back and forth on their runners, as house timbers twisted and bricks fell, as concrete & road seal began cracking & distorting, as windows creaked & cracked threatening to smash into thousands of fragments. I am sure the whole earth continued to rattle and shake for what seemed an eternity, for what in reality was another 45 seconds or so, yet in that small time frame, the earth changed the landscape in a way thousands of men working together could not achieve and the look and feel of our city changed forever.
Then, just as suddenly and every bit as frighteningly, the noises stopped and the whole world was still, eerily still. One could not wait for the noise to stop, yet the after-quietness was every bit as terrifying, like that moment in a horror movie, just before, well, you know. My husband held me in his strong arms and we just sat there waiting, wondering, what next?
Since this experience, there has been much conjecture as to the appropriate course of immediate action to take for self-preservation in the advent of earthquakes. We have always been advised to get under something solid such as a door frame or table, to protect our heads from falling objects. I have spoken to several friends who managed to stumble to a door frame but said that with the extreme violent lurching of their houses, the doors were a hazard in themselves as they swung wildly, threatening to crush fingers and bruised body parts.
Tables give overhead protection from small falling objects but depending on the construction of the building you happen to be in a table can well be crushed flat, with you under it, as the weight of heavy concrete walls or ceilings crash down on them. If however, you opt for the area called the ‘Triangle of Life’, you have a better chance of survival. The Triangle of Life is the area created if you were to lie down BESIDE something solid for example your bed, and that if a large object were to fall over you a triangular space is always created between the edge of the bed, or a solid object, and the floor thus keeping you safe from being crushed.
I have made a point of looking for areas in my home that would create a Triangle of Life should our family require such at any time. I hope the need never arises but given our recent earthquake encounter, it doesn’t hurt to be aware because one just never knows what’s around the corner.