The day the earth shook.

Ordinarily, I would have just carried this on in the last post but the 6th of February was a day I shall never forget as long as I live.  The day, sunny and pleasant, started normally enough.  Just before midday I was sitting having a coffee with Hawk behind the bar chatting about who knows what.  Lisa was hanging out laundry on the line, Mac had gone to town and Hazel had gone home as Monday is her day off. I became aware of a sort of drumming sound and the rather improbable thought crossed my mind that Hawk was drumming his feet against the back of the bamboo bar but I couldn't work out how as he was standing up.  He subsequently told me he thought I was doing the same thing.  The noise got louder and louder and then the bar started shaking.  All of a sudden I realised what it was, earthquake. 

Strangely, neither of us panicked although we were both earthquake virgins and I said to Hawk in a reasonably normal tone, "Hawk, get outside now".  He didn't need to be invited twice.  We both went to the middle of the carpark in fairly rapid order and called Lisa over to us.  I think it is the feeling of utter helplessness that remains with me now, feeling the whole ground beneath your feet shaking violently and not a thing you can do about it.  I have been relatively close to exploding bombs and this was far more terrifying although like all these things the shock comes after.

The three of us just stood looking at each other and none of us spoke until it was all over when Hawk and I both agreed that we were terrified.  Lisa, a Filipina and presumably used to such things, seemed pretty unfazed by it all.  How long did it go on for?  I genuinely couldn't tell you, I suppose two minutes from start to finish and two minutes I don't want to repeat in a hurry.  However, it was yet another experience and travelling "adventure".

After a while, we went back inside and had a look round.  Remarkably, there was no apparent damage at all.  Despite the ferocity of the thing, my coffee cup had not even been shaken off the bar and the display bottles were still upright.  Nothing had fallen off the walls and the only disturbance we could find was that a few of the botles in the chiller had fallen over although none had broken.  The power was not even disrupted.

Let me give you the statistics here as I subsequently discovered them.  It was a 6.9 magnitude earthquake with an epicentre about 30km. North of where I was and starting 14km. under the ground.  It was felt as far away as Iloilo, Southern Luzon, Cebu and Mindanao.  Tragically, a landslide triggered by the earthquake killed about 100 people not far North of here.  At least the Govt. figures are about 100 but the locals think there are more dead as only recovered bodies are counted and there are still many unaccounted for.  In places like that affected, many people are literally unknown to the authorities.  People move around frequently, many have little or no documentation and so on.

When you think about it, the figures are staggering.  A seismic event that started about nne miles underground had the power to literally make the earth quake underneath me.  The sheer power is almost beyond comprehension.  I subsequently found out there was a tsunami warning issued but quickly withdrawn.  Herein lies a problem.  We are about 400 metres from the sea and yet we received no warning, indeed I do not even know how the warning is communicated.  Where we are is actually pretty well protected from tsunami as we have the islands of Apo, Siqujor and Cebu shielding us on two sides.  To be perfectly honest, the thought of a tsunami never even entered my head.

So what do you do after an earthquake apart from feel a bit shaky?  For some reason that in hindsight seems completely insane, I decided to get on the bike with the vague idea of maybe assisting somewhere if I could.  The only problems were that I didn't know where the main difficulty was, I would be riding a coastal road in a tsunami alert that I knew nothing about and there were predicted aftershocks of which I was similarly unaware.  Of course I was aware of the concept of aftershocks but applyng it to my situation literally never occurred to me.

Off I went on the bike and stopped briefly at Robinson's Shopping Mall where the guards had evacuated everyone and locked the doors.  I did subsequently see a few cracks in the walls there but apparently it is structurally sound.  There were plenty of people milling about outside.  That was about the only unusual thing I noticed the whole day, people were outside, presumably afraid to go back indoors.  The local people obviously did have the wit to apply the concept of aftershocks.  There were a lot of schoolchildren about as the schools had been immediately evacuated and were to remain closed the whole week.

I stopped off for lunch in a little resort in Amlan and kept heading North which was towards the epicentre and the catastrophic landslide.  It is now very sobering and heartbreaking to think that I was tucking into a delightful pochero (beef shin stew) whilst people were slowly suffocating under tons of rock and earth a scant few miles away.  It has really made me think about the immense power of Nature and how totally inconsequential humans are.  I rode on as far as Tanjay City and literally saw no evidence at all of any disruption except the larger than usual numbers of people outside.

The only thing of note was when I was riding on a straight stretch and the back end of the bike started to move about a bit.  I slowed down and instinctively looked at the back wheel, thinking I had blown a tyre which happens frequently here.  Despite having just been through an earthquake a couple of hours before my brain just wan't hardwired for the concept that it wasn't the bike but the road that was the problem - it was moving.  Memo to self, ride easy. 

Having got as far as Tanjay without seeing anything obviously amiss, I headed back into Duma and went to my usual restaurant where there was local news TV on.  It was only at that point that I actually realised the full effect of what I had survived.  The atmosphere was understandably subdued and then the next aftershock came.  Almost incredibly, most of the Philippinos never even moved and even looked slightly quizzically as I moved out into the garden and away from the rather large concrete and girder construction.  Maybe they are just used to it.  We were told we could expect aftershocks for up to two weeks and many were recorded but the two I have described were the only ones I actually felt.

I realise this post is not in my usual style with images but there really wasn't much to photograph that is of ay relevance to what happened.  I did, however, see one interesting thing in Tanjay and couldn't resist a photo.

I am sure Her Majesty would be very flattered.
Patriotic Trike, Tanjay.

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