Have you ever experienced actual earthquake?

I just did.

Did you hear about the recent earthquake in South East Asia? You probably did not since it was a tiny, tiny incident compared to the one that struck Japan earlier this month. Nevertheless, I still want to talk about it because it happened to me, for real. And it got me thinking about things I never did before.

On March 24, about 8.30 pm local time, a 6.7 Richter earthquake shook the ground. The center of the quake was 100 meters from the surface and was located in Burma. No official report regarding the extent of damage from Burma (that country has been closed since…forever). That night, I was on a night shift, a busy one. I was on the eleventh floor of the hospital building, examining a middle-aged woman who was admitted for unexplained high fever and headache. Handful of medical students was standing around the bed, observing me (which I can never get used to). Nurses were walking about doing their jobs and several dozens of patient were on that floor, looking sick as they should be. Out of the blue, I felt dizzy and lost my balance. I noticed the IV fluid bags swayed on their poles and then someone from behind me shouted nervously, ‘earthquake!’. The building was literally swinging! Everyone started to panic. Some crouched down at corners while many quickly crawled under tables. My mind kind of went blank at the moment. I was not afraid but simply shocked and in partial denial.

The actual earthquake did not last very long, only a few minutes, and the severity scale had reduced from 6.7 to approximately 5 Richter in my city. Luckily, no one was hurt and the building did not collapse on top of my head which would ultimately result in me getting buried under tons of concrete and the untimely death of this blog. The real emotional turmoil started after the quake. Fear suddenly took over. First, there was fear of the impending aftershocks then fear for my parents at home. I was not sure exactly what to do. I told the students to leave the building by stairs. There must be standard protocol for evacuation in situation like this but such protocol has never been rehearsed or even mentioned around here. Until that very day, earthquake was something we only heard in world news program. The phone network immediately crashed because everybody dialed up all at once. Facebook exploded with comments; seriously, do people normally dash towards Facebook after crisis? Some of the suggestions from my friend’s facebook said that one should run up to the top floor of the building so that when the whole thing collapsed the one on top would be safe because there would be nothing to fall on him. I wondered how many people actually believed that.

My point for this post is that this earthquake, although small and generally harmless, reminded me of many important things. My life and everything around me that usually seemed secure were actually very fragile. Within a blink of an eye, all that I was and all that I relied on could disappear. I felt like I should have been more appreciative of my life and what I had. All the trivial things that I worried about didn’t matter anymore. I should be more thankful and grateful to my family and my friends. I should tell you guys more often how much I appreciate you reading and visiting my blog.

Lastly, my heart goes to the people of Japan who, until this very day, are still struggling against all the hardship and suffering. I wonder if this is a sign of world apocalypse.  I surely hope not. There are still too many anime I need to catch up.

ps. big thank you goes to Reyneholde who thought about my well-being on March 24 via twitter. Thank you!

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16 responses to “Have you ever experienced actual earthquake?

  1. I heard it in the news, I really hope this isn’t a bad sign of things to come. It happened here in NZ and Japan as well, where a minor EQ foretold of a bigger one in the future. I pray this is not the case.

    I’ve never experienced an actual earthquake but I’ve experienced countless aftershocks ranging from mild to scary when I went back to Christchurch in my summer holidays. While I managed to escape the big on in March, it did manage to make me think of my mortality as well.

    I’m glad that you and your family are alright though, hopefully everything stays safe >.<

    • Thank you. It’s kind of disturbing to hear about all the EQ happening so often around the globe which surely looks like a sign of bigger things to come. But I am trying to be optimistic right now -_-‘

  2. Thanks for the post. :)

    I think part of the reason the Japanese took in Buddhism and even further developed Buddhist aesthetic principles was due to their appreciation for the transcience and impermanence of things as a result of their land having so many earthquakes, tsunamis, fires, typhoons, and even blizzards (in some parts of the country).

    It’s a good thing you’re safe, though. One thing I noticed when the Tohoku earthquake struck in Japan was that the Japanese remained extremely calm despite the violent shaking. Of course people were scared, but in the aftermath of the quake people remained nice to each other and first thought about the people around them, rather than rushing off to save themselves.

    Another thing I noticed was that there was a significant difference in reaction between students who were used to earthquakes and students who were not. Coming from California, I experienced part of the M6-ish earthquake in Mexico a year or two ago, and I feel at least one earthquake every year or so. When the M9 hit Japan, I sort of started outside the window of my bus noting down people’s reactions instead of panicking because I was used to earthquakes. Other students from Europe later told me they panicked and ran around, so I realized that in untrained and less earthquake-educated populations, the phenomenon seems extremely scary.

    There may still be a few aftershocks, but stay calm!

    • Thank you!
      My country is also a Buddhist but people seem to forget about the ‘impermanence’ of things lately. Many blamed it on materialism, some blamed it on social networking and influx of information. I am sure this EQ had reminded many people of this fact :)

      About the proper preparation for future EQ, right now people are so alert about it and I see posters and info sheet about how to deal with EQ everywhere. Though I don’t know how many actually read those :P

  3. I agree with you when you say that an earthquake can make you realise how fragile your “secure life” is. I’m from Chile and we are an earthquake-educated society but we still panick every time; I wasn’t really proud of my country’s reaction but I guess it just depends on every population.
    I hope everyone it’s okay out there!

  4. I hope everything’s fine over there in Myanmar (?) and Japan. God bless.

    • The news report had recently came out; there’s about 100 people killed in Myanmar (I don’t know if that’s reliable, though) but there’s only 3 deaths in Thailand. One of which was an old lady whose house was already on the verge of falling apart. She was killed when the wall of her house fell on her.

  5. People going to Facebook first thing right after a disaster is done often enough that many make fun of it.

    I’m very happy to hear you’re okay, and thank you for sharing your experience.

    To answer your question–I live in a part of Ohio where small non-serious earthquakes are common. We have one every six months-a year. They’re scary, but they pass, and are so small they never cause damage.

    • I heard some people went straight to facebook when the EQ occured instead of hiding in safe places or evacuating the building. Maybe they were not sure if it was really an EQ and want some confirmation from his/her facebook friend :D

  6. Good to hear you’re okay :)

  7. Oh Canne. I’m so glad you’re OK. I honestly had no idea bout this earthquake. Between the Japanese earthquake, and the one in China a week before that, Taiwanese news were all overwhelmed by all these natural disasters.

    Anyway, I was actually a bit scared when I started reading this post… But thank goodness nothing you’re fine. ^ ^

    Life sure is fragile. Let’s both make the best of it!

  8. I know it’s necessary to value what you have, but I dislike reminding myself of how fragile my life really is. I’m probably the most aware of how fragile my life is as I’m driving, I have very little faith in the drivers around me and it seems like such an easy way to accidentally lose everything.

    • Drivers are not to be trusted, I agree. People get sleepy or loose focus for millions of reasons. It’s up to us to take good care of ourselves in the end :)

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