Tuesday, March 16, 2010


I was in bed but not quite asleep. The gentle rocking made me think, "ah.. the ship is leaving the port". After a moment I thought, "wait a minute... I'm not in a ship!".

For about a minute the room rocked silently and very gently - about 3 or 4 cm back and forth every 5 seconds or so. There were some thumping noises and creaking in the building, like turning the heating on in an old house, but otherwise it was totally silent, gentle movement - exactly like being in a very big ship. I looked out the window but could see nothing unusual, movement too small to see in the other buildings around, cars were driving on the road as normal. Then I went to sleep. There never was any danger.

So I experienced my first earth quake - at least the first I could feel. Actually there have been 7 in Chile since I arrived, all unnoticed until the one last night. It was 6.7 and about 375km away in the South West. More details at US Geological survey. One thing this brings home to me is that (a) earth quakes are very common, and (b) most are harmless and (c) it is about distance just as much as scale - being on top of a 6.7 is no fun I'm sure, but at 375km a lot of people in Santiago didn't even notice it.

It is a different story if you live by the coast. A lot of people in Chile (though not Santiago itself) not only have no homes to return to, either from living near the big one last month, or from tidal waves. Many of the people along the coast are afraid to move back to rebuild their homes. Tidal waves can strike hundreds of miles from the epicenter.