12 March, 2011

Living between faults

Yesterday: I wake up in the morning and have a look at the newspaper. The front page is all about the twin natural calamities that hit Japan; the high-intensity quake followed by a monstrous tsunami. I'm shocked. I go further than the headlines and learn that so many lives have been lost and property damaged. I am sure that this is all the news channels will be about for the next few days. It's news. Big News. MAGNITUDE!*

I brush my little one's teeth and sit him down to breakfast and quickly find the remote controls and switch on the television. What I see is news closer home. There's a reporter with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background. I hear that the water is rough; that people have been asked to leave a pier by the bridge because a high wave had crashed onto it. An expert is having quoted saying that it is odd that the water that normally flows out through the Golden Gate strait is now flowing inwards into the SF Bay. Weird!

Back to the Newsroom. A report from Santa Cruz. Boats have gotten lose. Unmanned boats are floating along, bumping into other ones. There is some damage. More boats on the lose, colliding with docks. I see the visual of one boat floating away and into the pillar of a bridge, broken docks, capsized boats. More damage. 'Tsunami Surge,' they say. Reports from Crescent City; another harbour that has met with some devastation. More news. Local news. PROXIMITY!*.

After all, the Japan disasters are just an ocean apart.

Since it's the great Pacific, it'd taken a while for the waves to hit the American mainland. Although travelling at 500 miles per hour, there was time -- a few hours -- to warn the people living on the California coast to evacuate and move to higher ground.

I'm glued to the television. Newscasters seem to be juggling with news from abroad and home. It is the world's fifth largest quake that rocked the islands of Japan. US west cost is calmer although there are some reports of awkward behaviour of water in some places. Then there are reporters getting hold of random Californians and asking them how prepared they were for a quake. After all, this is California - America's own quake capital.

It is the land of the infamous 1989 Loma Prieta and the SF quake of 1906

I remember the first time I felt a tremor. That one was probably the strongest I experienced. I remember the big thud, felt the earth shake and then for a few more seconds the window blinds kept flapping against each other.

Then there was a second and third time and a few more (some felt, some we've been oblivious to.) It's an every-year thing, as -- experts say -- the faults have to let off some steam.

That CA is expecting a major quake within the next 3 decades is no news around here.

Back to the television, there are more interviews with locals. More people are asked about how ready they are for a quake or an evacuation. I'm kind of surprised and ashamed, all the same: many people have a plan, they have radios ready, they have emergency survival kits; all just-in-case...

They all seem to say in chorus, "better to be safe than sorry."

Then an ABC correspondent talks to another Californian - she has just some food and a couple of gallons of water ready and she is called a 'laid back Californian,' This wakes me up. Then what would I be? What would we do if there's another quake and if there's no power, no water and no gas? PULL QUOTE* -SHAME.

And we live in the proximity of 6 major fault lines and in between the San Andreas and Calaveras faults.

Family discussion. Online searches. Emergency Kit on the way from Amazon.com. One bag with clothes we don't use much, diapers, some first aid and the sort; just in case...

Today: I'm a wee-little more prepared.

When I was younger and heard of places prone to natural disasters I wondered why people continued to live in dangerous places.


                                                                                                                                       ...despite the faults.

*Some journalistic jargon

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