Earthquake!

I live in Turkey and yes I know it’s on a fault line!  We get lots of little tremors mostly they go unnoticed unless you happen to be sitting very quietly or sometimes lying awake in bed.

In 2008 before I moved here I spent 6 weeks of the summer less than 1km from where I live now.  After a very wild night when I consumed a rather large quantity of the local brew…raki – I staggered home to my bed around 5.30am.  Not able to sleep I got up for a shower at 6am and then tried again.  I woke up with what I thought were the shakes.  I remember sitting on the bed looking at my shaking hands and at my sleeping room mate and wondering whether I should wake her up to take me to hospital by now convinced I had one hell of a case of alcohol poisoning.  It was almost a relief when the light fittings started to swing and things fell off the dressing table.  It lasted for about 60 seconds and was about 5.7 on the Richter scale centred out at sea between us and Rhodes.   It was a bit of a shock…..not really scary and not something that I gave a lot of thought to afterwards.

So I’ve lived here 3 years – we’ve had loads of small ones.  My sofa moves occasionally – nothing to get over excited about – I used to look to look at the Earthquake stats daily but really don’t give them much thought.   Yesterday was one hell of a shock!   At 11am yesterday morning the temperatures reached 36 degrees – exceptionally hot for this time of year.  I’d commented to my husband on Saturday night that with the heat and high humidity it felt like we might have an earthquake.   At 3.44pm yesterday afternoon I dragged my comfy chair out onto the balcony and went back indoors to add some sun cream to my very fair skin…….i heard a strange noise – didn’t really register what it was and then the whole building moved….and I mean literally shook – the bed moved 4 inches, things flew off shelves and the dressing table and I was terrified – I threw myself down on the bed and waited for it to stop.

Definitely the biggest I’ve ever felt.  I tried to call my husband and the phone network was busy,  Then I thought I had better post on Facebook to let people know I was ok.  I looked up the size of the quake 6.1, the location and posted that I was ok.  Then the aftershock hit – a meaty 4.9 – at that point I grabbed my handbag, my iPad and phone and fled into the street.   It was quite sociable – all the neighbours were out – internet off, electric off and phone network down.

My biggest worry was my husbands family – they are in Ercis, Van where they had the massive quake last October – luckily they were unhurt – some of the properties were damaged and they lost a lot of life long friends.  I was worried that they would see it on the news, and not been able to contact us fear the worst.   My brother in law was the first contact I had with the outside world…he must have been worried he speaks no english and my Turkish is a bit limited.   I managed to tell him we were ok, had to admit I couldn’t contact my husband but tried to reassure him.  Meanwhile my hands were still shaking.

About an hour later we decided it was probably safe to go back indoors.  We all went to my neighbours for tea, cake and to discuss the afternoons happenings.   My brother in law called again – worried about his Aunt – she lives close by but no one had been able to contact her.  I rushed my tea and dashed off to check on Aunty – she was on her own and very scared.  I tried to call my husband again…….and finally got a reply – the area where he was working had hardly felt it and he couldn’t understand why he had 50 missed calls and why we were all in such a state.

Anyway the aftershocks continue – a big one at 9.30 last night 4.5 that was a furniture mover – quite a few smaller ones during the night.  Some small ones this morning and a 3.9 that shook the furniture again at 5pm this afternoon.   I can’t really describe how it feels – in some ways you know there is not much you can do and you need to get on with life and  on the other hand you don’t want to die under a collapsed building anytime soon.

Many of my friends live a few km closer to the epicentre – they have lost far more than I have – including televisions and other electrical items.  I have a few wonky pictures some broken ornaments and some smashed make up – not exactly the end of the world.  There was all sorts of talk of a big one coming in the early hours of this morning and lots of people opted to sleep outside.   I think the local booklet called What to Do in an Earthquake is probably heading up the bestseller list – people are downloading it and begging copies to make sure they are prepared.

Friends who have lived here 20 years says it’s the biggest they have ever experienced and common sense says you should be prepared.  But it’s like smoke alarms or fire escapes in the UK – one of those things you keep meaning to get around to.  Yesterday we were lucky – the epicentre was out at sea and quite deep if it had been shallower or more inland we would not have been so lucky.  There are reports of dozens of people in hospital – they are all Turkish – mostly suffering from shock, a couple of heart attacks and a couple with injuries sustained when they jumped off their balconies.

In reality all new houses here are earthquake proof – whilst an old house may look quaint and be a tempting to buy –  I’m much happier in my post 2000 apartment that has nice bendy steel bits so that it moves with the ground and doesn’t fall down.  My darling husband is convinced that we should be more worried about a Tsunami – we are 1km from the sea and it’s totally flat.

Last night I slept fully clothed (not comfortable when it’s this hot)  with my emergency bag very close by – I am equipped with some basic first aid supplies.a torch,  my regular medication, a change of underwear, some wet wipes, a blanket, some bottled water, my passport, phones, chargers and Ipad and charger some sun cream and insect repellent and my mascara.  Don’t want to look too rough if I need to appear on an international news program.  Someone suggested today that I should also pack sturdy shoes as there could be broken glass and other sharp objects under foot and there have been numerous other suggestions.   I have to draw the line somewhere though……I need to be packed for an emergency but able to get out quickly – if I have to drag 20 kilos of emergency equipment behind me I’m not going to be very mobile.

I am trying to be sensible but actually I’m really scared and not afraid to admit to that.  I hardly slept at all last night and did use it as a really good excuse to let the cat sleep on the bed.  At some point I am going to have to get back to normal and stop worrying about taking a shower or doing other every day things – the thought of another earthquake is worrying.

A friend admitted this morning she had finally showered wearing a tshirt just in case but was then stumped when she needed to dry herself.  Friends with small children are all sleeping in one room or a tent and some in their car just in case.  I feel sorry for the tourists who have never experienced even a slight tremor before they must be totally terrified.

Here’s hoping the worst is over and we will have a quiet night.   My emergency bag will stay packed but probably end up in the back of a cupboard somewhere and be totally inaccessible this time next year but for the moment it’s by the bed at night and by the front door during the day.   If the worst happens I’m as prepared as I am ever going to be.

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