Saturday, April 20, 2013

My First Earthquake

Some of you may have heard about the two recent earthquakes in Iran, which is not too far from us in Abu Dhabi. Close enough in fact that UAE felt both of them - no damage or injuries, thank God, but a healthier appreciation for shifting tectonic plates.

After the first one, which I didn't even notice, I got a text from Brian saying he was home because his building had been evacuated. Apparently the building started to shake and most thought it had something to do with the deep underground parking structure they were digging next door. The way construction projects are run here, no one would be too surprised if they miscalculated a dynamite blast!

Brian told me later that the building felt like it was swaying. He was quite happy to get out and head home instead - especially since he works on the 10th floor and we live on the ground floor. It was around 3:30-4:00 so not much of a day off, but hey ... At my work, we didn't feel or hear a thing - we're about 30 minutes from Brian toward Dubai.

A few days, maybe a week later, I got my own taste of earthquake. It was again around 4:00 in the afternoon and I and 3 others were working in our office. The first thing I noticed was a rumbling for lack of a better word. I actually didn't think anything of it at first - maybe something to do with the construction underway on the North side of our building? Then it happened again a bit stronger and I saw my monitor shake - okay, that felt weird. That's when some of the others in the office looked up and starting asking, "did you feel that?", I admitted something was going on.

We all kind of turned to the center of the room looking at each other and it happened again, like a huge giant was gently shaking the building. One of the empty chairs on the other side of the room starting shaking and bouncing and that's when someone suggested earthquake.

It stopped just that quick, maybe 30 seconds from start to finish, but now we weren't sure what to do. Under a desk? outside? ignore it and keep on working? It's funny, we're all very prepared for a fire - alarm testing every week and drills twice per year, but we hadn't ever considered what to do in an earthquake.

Against common wisdom (we found out later) we all went outside for about 15 minutes until the safety team told us we could go back inside and carry on.

And after some consultation with Google, we found out the following:
  • the earthquake happened near the border of Iran and Pakistan
  • it registered 7.8 on the Richter scale used in the US making it the most powerful earthquake for Iran in 50 years
  • more than 30 people were killed and dozens injured in Pakistan. Luckily it happened in a fairly remote area of the desert or the damage could have been much greater
  • the worst place to be during an earthquake is outside!

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