Sunday, March 18, 2007
Once Shaken, Twice...
What the news stated today prompted me to complete this post I wrote that same day it happened recently.
I guess I never get to post it immediately because I was just too busy with my daily earthly chores. Today's news jolted me to a new reality that anything can happen anywhere.
Last Tuesday, 6 March 2007 was probably the most unfavorable yet intense new experience I had in my whole life of 40 years... mother earth wise.
There were 2 earthquakes - one at noon and the other, two hours later, both measuring at 6.6 on the Ritcher scale jolted Padang Sumatra in Indonesia. Its epicenter was 430km away from Singapore, the closest to us so far.
The news reported that 82 people in Sumatra died while some were still buried in the rubbles from last week's earthquakes alone.
And yes, last week's earthquakes in Indonesia shook buildings in 10 parts of Singapore. Most of the buildings were in Ang Mo Kio, Yishun, Toa Payoh, Woodlands, Serangoon, Sengkang and CBD areas like Robinson Road, Shenton Way and Suntec Singapore.
I work in Ang Mo Kio. Our office and manufaturing unit being on the ground floor, made us oblivious to the tremors or made us felt all giddy as associated with swaying buildings during earthquakes.
The rest of the people on the higher floors felt exactly that for about 13 seconds... only to realize that it was indeed an earthquake. The second on lasted a while longer of about 25 seconds.
I only realized what was happening and alerted the rest of my colleagues when I went out to go to the next building. Upon hearing a passing friend telling me of the tremors, I rushed back inside and told the whole office to evacuate.
Instinct Kicks In
My instincts took over me from there. I told a friend to wait and hold-open the front door while I combed the manufacturing floor to alert the people working there to evacuate as well, and combed the office one more time before I closed the door behind me.
I called to inform the Ops Manager about the evacuation, since nobody seemed to take charge of the situation.
We were at the car park in the center of the buildings and waited for further instructions. The people from other companies joined everyone else at the car park too.
A scene that usually seen only during fire evacuation practices... not for the uncommon earthquakes as we are not on the Ring of Fire or between tectonic plates.
I called Wifey and my parents at home to check that they were alright. Wifey did not feel anything, but Mom had the classic dizzy spells when it happened. Dad was not aware as he was napping then.
About half an hour later, we went back into our building after the Safety Office announced that it was safe to return.
It was most definitely a hot conversational piece for everyone as it was lunch time then. Many joked about it, I know I was also one of them.
It was rather interesting than anything seriously life threatening... when nothing big happened. The first personal experience... somewhat, since I did not feel the tremors for myself.
Everyone worked like any normal day would be until we had another jolt at 2:00pm.
This time, half of the people in my office felt the tremors while the other half, where I am seated did not. They came over to me to tell me like it was a casual, fun experience and went back to their desks.
I was quite surprised with the reaction. I went out again and before I reached the door, the fire alarm rang continuously. Upon opening the door, the throngs of people from the upper floors were evacuating again.
Again, I ran back in and told the office and the manufacturing people to evacuate. I told my Ops Manager that I was evacuating the manufacturing unit on the second floor behind our building.
I felt that I was responsible for the people under my charge that were working in the next block. I just had to be sure that they were evacuated safely.
With the help of a colleagues that was working there, I did the same... someone waited at the opened front door, while I combed the manufacturing unit and then the toilet when I was told that there were 4 operators inside.
I told the Supervisors to account for their people and again I informed the Ops Manager that everyone was out safely. I felt relieved that I did my bit.
Reality Sinks In
We have been having periodic fire evacuation practices where everyone was pre-alerted and went through the evacuation routine. Everyone moved orderly and precisely like clockwork. Everything was dandy.
The strange thing that hit me was that no one expected something like this to happen, and none of our people seemed to know how to react or what to do.
I admit that I was over-reacting to the situation, but I felt that it was better to be safe than sorry... after the second tremors! Fortunately no buildings collapsed, no lives lost, not even a scratch on anyone... and everyone gets to talk and joke about it another day.
Today, the news reported another earthquake measuring 6.1 off the Indonesian Moluccas Islands at 1:42am Sunday morning. No immediate reports of lives lost or damaged properties.
Wonder what is the deal The Almighty has in store for Indonesia. It has been experiencing its never ending human and natural catastrophes happening back to back since last year...