Earthquake – never thought it’d happen to me

fire after earthquake

I took a 21-hour flight to be at the reunion of my maternal family (Carañgan) in La Castellaña, Philippines. Whilst on stopover in Manila on 22 April 2019 at 5PM, there was an intensity 5 earthquake. I was in a parlor when suddenly the ground trembled and furniture started to shake, then the power went out. The six people in that beauty saloon, which is on the ground floor of a 22-level building, stayed where they were whilst I rushed to the door barefoot and run to the nearby one-level-structure. I was the first person to get out and one of the last to get back as I was worried about aftershocks.

After the earthquake, there was fire two blocks away from where we were. I took this photo from our window.

Aftershocks are tremors that follow the main earthquake. They happen more frequently in the hours and days after an earthquake, but their magnitude and frequency decrease over time. Even though their shaking intensity is relatively small compared with that of the main earthquake, they can destabilise buildings and injure people.

My sister, who flew from Australia to join our family reunion, was out shopping at that time when she realised there was an earthquake and walked back immediately. Several people advised her to stay where she was but refused telling them that she had to go back as her sister (that’s me) was still inside the building. Before she reached the parlor, she found me barefoot on the sidewalk beside a single-level elementary school. There was only a dozen of us in front of the elementary school, however, more than a hundred people were in front of the condominium as if waiting for the structure to collapse on them. I couldn’t believe that after a stressful exit they would just stay right in front of the building. In times of panic, the brain switches on what it is used to. In that condominium the stairways are in front of the elevators and where the garbage bins are kept, which residents see or use regularly; whereas, the emergency exit is located at the other end of the building and is unknown to some residents and visitors, like me. I could have been in a worse situation, e.g. having a shower or being in the elevator without a mobile phone or a torch.

According to Australia’s Victoria State Emergency Service, if you are indoors during an earthquake, you should do the following:

  • “Drop to the ground; take cover by getting under a sturdy table or other piece of furniture; and hold on until the shaking stops. If there isn’t a table or desk near you, cover your face and head with your arms and crouch in an inside corner of the building.
  • Stay away from glass, windows, outside doors and walls, and anything that could fall, such as lighting fixtures or furniture.
  • Stay in bed if you are there when the earthquake strikes. Hold on and protect your head with a pillow, unless you are under a heavy light fixture that could fall. In that case, move to the nearest safe place.
  • Do not use a doorway except if you know it is a strongly supported, load-bearing doorway and it is close to you. Many inside doorways are lightly constructed and do not offer protection.
  • Stay inside until the shaking stops and it is safe to go outside. Do not exit a building during the shaking. Research has shown that most injuries occur when people inside buildings attempt to move to a different location inside the building or try to leave.
  • Do not use the elevator. Be aware that the electricity may go out or the sprinkler systems or fire alarms may turn on.”

If you are outdoors during an earthquake, do the following:

  • “Move away from buildings, streetlights, and utility wires.
  • Once in the open, stay there until the shaking stops. The greatest danger exists directly outside buildings, at exits and alongside exterior walls.
  • If you are in a moving vehicle during an earthquake, stop as quickly as safety permits and stay in the vehicle. Avoid stopping near or under buildings, trees, overpasses, and utility wires. Proceed cautiously once the earthquake has stopped. Avoid roads, bridges, or ramps that might have been damaged by the earthquake.
  • If you are trapped under debris during or after an earthquake: Do not light a match. Do not move around or kick up dust. Cover your mouth with a handkerchief or clothing. Tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can locate you. Use a whistle if one is available. Shout only as a last resort. Shouting can cause you to inhale dangerous amounts of dust.”

As you have noticed, I didn’t act safely as I failed to stay inside until the shaking stopped. Likewise, due to her love and care for me, my sister disregarded the basic safety and survival step by deciding to go back inside the building during the earthquake. I hope you won’t experience this incredibly life threatening situation; but if you do, follow the advice of the Victoria State Emergency Service and not what I did. (This article also appears in my website Being Intelligent Gifted - www.beingintelligentgifted.com)

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