Living beside an active volcano means that tremors and small earthquakes are not unusual. Everybody here knows what they feel like, and they come as no surprise to the locals. For me, though, it was a little different.
According to the US Geological Survey, between 2000 and 2010 an average of some 63,000 people died every year in earthquakes. In 2010, the Haiti earthquake alone killed 316,000 people. Over one million people lost their homes, and cholera and other diseases spread around the country as a result of this natural disaster. And the earthquake didn’t even last that long – only 30 to 40 seconds. More than ninety thousand houses were destroyed in just over half a minute. It is a terrifying thought: the idea that you could lose your home, your family, your friends, your entire city, and even your life, in such a short space of time is enough to give anyone nightmares.
What do you even do when there’s an earthquake? What is the safety procedure? In Hollywood films the characters seem to hide under the furniture and I have heard that you should stand somewhere near the door. Surely you should try to leave the building? I live in a third floor flat, with several more storeys above me – nobody wants to be trapped under that after an earthquake (or at any other time, for that matter). One friend told me that, in the event of an earthquake, you should go to the bathroom. The solid furniture will somehow protect you, she said. Though I suppose the fear may also naturally send you running to the bathroom.
Whenever any tremor comes, I know that I should be scared. I know that I should probably panic and think about what I need to do. Last week, though, I felt a tremor for the first time and the only things I felt were excitement and adrenaline. I was not scared and I was not worried (mind you, my family and friends back home certainly were when I told them). To feel the earth move like that is quite exhilarating.
Of course, this tremor lasted only a few seconds. I have spoken to locals since the event and there were, fortunately, no injuries or any damage done by it. That, I suppose, is the key. Had it been a real earthquake, I think I would have felt quite differently.