Earthquake Redux

The sound of a seismic event is unmistakable.  I realize the earthquake has been a recurring theme of this blog, but read on and you’ll realize why.

On the scale of an individual human, the vibration is global, all encompassing.  Everything one can feel, see, touch, and hear is at first vibrating, then shaking, then convulsing, and then ceasing, on a dime.  The occurrence here has become incessantly intermittent, to the point of paranoia.  It shakes often enough to make one think it is when it isn’t (perhaps when a bus passes nearby), but with enough unpredictability to produce a schizophrenia that leaves an entire population with frayed nerves and on edge.

Case in point: on the night of April 4th, I was in Santiago staying at my tia Loreto’s house.  Sleeping arrangements had been made to accommodate me along with my three cousins, and just after 11 the lights were off and the eyelids gained weight.  The first images of sleep had begun to appear when came the vibrations.  At once, eyes open, adrenaline awakened.  One expects it to pass, so staying in bed is the norm.  It vibrates, then it begins to shake, sound emanates from everything.  Soon we feel it begin to subside, we can exhale, but suddenly it gains strength and in an instant, BOOM, we feel the shock portion of the aftershock.

19th century adobe brick house with earthquake damage

Some of the damages to the 19th century adobe brick Urbina family house in Santiago, Chile (not the one from my story)

The house seems to jump, perhaps like a house in a neighbourhood being bombed might, and we all equally jump out of bed and into the hall.  As aftershocks go, it was minor (4.4 magnitude), but the proximity made it seem ominous, with an epicentre a mere 35 km away from Santiago.  Catalina, the youngest of my cousins, complains that she was just falling asleep, while my aunt climbs the stairs to check on us and exclaim that it’s enough already.  The sentiment is popular.  And it doesn’t seem much to ask in a country that was hammered by an 8.8 magnitude earthquake and that has been suffering hundreds of aftershocks, including one in mid-March of magnitude 7.3 (0.3 degrees stronger than the quake that struck Haiti).

The feeling, and above all the sound, brings on fear, perhaps panic and a realization of helplessness before the cycles of the planet.  These were my first days back from the north of Chile where, unfortunately, we can expect a large seismic event to hit in the comings months, if what we hear is right.


April 2010
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