I was just reading news that another aftershock hits Haiti this morning of around a magnitude 6.1, just eight days after 7.0 earthquake shook Port Au Prince and devastated the Caribbean country with the worst earthquake in the region in more than 200 years !
It just makes me wonder what not this one of the poorest and least developed countries “Haiti” has suffered in recent years. Problems ranging from near-constant political upheaval, health crises, severe environmental degradation and an annual barrage of hurricanes, which caused vast damage in 2008. So much for this country!
Reading about earthquakes and devastation caused by it, reminds me of my first face-to-face with "Earthquake".
At that time it was a funny experience to talk about and to have a good laugh ! Yeah, only to realise our immaturity !
It was 26th January 2001, 51st Republic Day of India.
Location : Gujarat, Western state of India.
Most of the people were getting ready to go for flag hosting ceremonies. I in my graduation studies at that times and it being a public holiday was at home. Typical of me to be lazy on holidays and specially when visiting home, so I had just woke up and after the morning routine I was lying on couch in hall ( yes lying, and not sitting), reading newspaper.
It was 08:46 am IST, and suddenly I felt my news paper was shaking, making me unable to read.
I thought it was my younger brother or sister trying to tease me, irritate me.
Thinking how kiddish of them to try such petty tactics, I shouted "get off" in the air without even trying to look who it was !
But no change !
It was stil shaking, aahhh now this is too much. I moved newspaper aside from front of my face to snap whoever was doing that and surprisingly there was no one in the room !
And then it sunk in. No one was shaking my newspaper, in fact whole room was shaking !
My mom came running from inside room give a lots of instruction and information at the same time.... it's earth quack... stand... run... get out of the house... leave home, go out in the open area.
I still remember we didn't even go through main gate of house garden. We just jumped the compound wall and were on the other side. And there we stand almost everyone outside standing on the road, hand in hand and we watched our homes shaking as if made from paper!
We all stood there outside our home for somtime which i don't remember how long, but then asn all the houses started ringing with phones and we felt safe, we went inside.
Papa called us to ask if we all were alright, he had left for office when it happened as he was suppose to do flag hosting at 9:30 am, and so at that particular time he was driving.
He told us about how he felt suddenly his car was sliding on the side as if all tires were punctured, and we laughed.
Soon we all were stucked to our phones, even public telephone booths were jammed, everyone was busy talking with all the friends and relative, asking their well being, repeating same stories, laughing sharing own experiences and talking about who was doing what at that time! How some uncle or Aunty ran without proper dressing up and how some one was bathing at that time! We went to the school from where I had passed out as my younger sister was going to be awarded gold medal for the best student in her batch, quite a proud moment and we were there to be a part of that. Whole ceremony went on as a routine, with a topic of the day being Morning earthquake tremors.
And then as we were home, free and watching news on television, we started to realize, there was nothing funny about morning. We started to realize the severity of what had happened. It measured 7.9 on the Richter scale.
Epicenter was in the western part of Gujarat region, near the Pakistan border and we were living in south of Gujarat and that is why we were not that affected as the western part of state. There was no contact possible with that part of state, as most of the infrastructure was damaged. Later on as more information got available we came to know City of Bhuj, situated only 20 kilometers (14 miles) from the epicenter, was the most devastated town. The quake destroyed around 90% of the homes in Bhuj, eight schools, and flattened two hospitals. In Ahmedabad, Gujarat's commercial capital and a city of 4.6 million populations, as many as 50 multi storied buildings collapsed and several hundred people were killed. Total property damage was estimated at $5.5 billion and rising. The quake destroyed 75% of Kutch District, and over 80% of usable food and water supplies.
Also the shock waves spread 700km. 21 districts were affected and 600 000 people left homeless! It was true, it had happened and there was nothing to laugh about!
We had some friends from college from that region and we were all trying to reach them, but no contact. Only after a few days we could contact some of them to know if they were alright. After some days we were back to routine life, we were back to hostel, back to college and our friends from that effected part of state were still not back.
And when situation stabilized, when we saw them back to college, I cannot describe that relieved feeling in words, I still feel lump in my throat when I am trying to recollect those moments and I still feel those emotions we went through.
Unfortunately not everything was same, at least for those from that part, some people never returned! A few who had returned had lost their loved ones, some had lost their homes and they were always worried about their family back home.
In a way we all were worried. We all were thinking same in one part of our minds - not necessary if it wasn't severe in this part of region this time, next time also it won’t be!
That was the first time we were face to face with the reality, I don't know if prior to that I or may be most of us ever gave it a thought more than it being one chapter of geographic studies back school!
We never thought it can happen here, it can happen with us! But it did making us think that it can be anywhere. However advanced we go, however good we get at forecasting and trends, but still at times nature always manages to surprise us.
R.I.P all victims of this tragedy.
May all those suffering from loses have courage to pass this.
God bless all.
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