Every once in a while something happens that makes you think: “Fuck me that was close!” – I had one of my biggest “fuck me that was close”s on Saturday this week.
Around midday myself and three friends were leaving a restaurant on our way to a music festival for the weekend. We were in a busy side street in Kathmandu, Nepal.
As we stood in the street a loud droning noise began and the ground shook. My initial thoughts were that something heavy had fallen and landed in the street, perhaps an AirConditioning unit or something of similar size. Just then the entire building against which we had been standing, started to move and the whole street underneath us, literally began to move like a wave.
One of the strangest things about being in an earthquake is how your sense of reality is distorted. Things that are supposed to be solid and in a stable state – move, the way that they’re not supposed to. Buildings sway like leaves on a tree and the ground moves like a laundry blowing in a breeze on a washing line.
Growing up in South Africa we were taught, in an emergency, how to hide under our desks, (I think in case people threw stones at our classroom windows), and how to assemble on the bottom rugby field when the school bell rang in irritatingly contious short bursts. Since we never experience earthquakes we don’t really know what to do when your whole world starts to shake, but hopefully, we wouldn’t have been told to hide under our desks.
Since I had no idea what do in an earthquake I decided to put together “Gareth’s Earthquake Survivial Guide“:
- Stay calm: Easy. As the entire ground on which you’re standing feels like you’re trying to balance on a bouncy castle, just remain calm and don’t panic. Even as a car is crushed by bricks that fall from a building, don’t panic this help you think clearly and focus on step two.
- Have a plan: when your world starts to shake like Micheal J Fox, make sure you know what you’re going to do, and then rollout your plan. (Running from the street inside a building, then realizing it’s not the best plan, then running out again and ending up an “uncalm” and quivering mess under the awning on the side of a building is not the correct procedure to follow)
- Find a doorway: I’ve since found out, a doorway is the safest place to be. The overhead support apparently provides safety from falling bricks and concrete. Having seen the destruction caused by a falling building, I think the person that came up with the “doorway safety procedure” might be the same person that came up with the “brace” position for an aircraft crash. Stick, gun fight – make a sentence.
- Find open space: the safest place when buildings are falling down is – away from the buildings. If you’re ever traveling in a country that’s had an earthquake in the past 75 years (Nepal’s last big earthquake was in 1934) don’t go near any buildings, this eliminates the chance of the buildings collapsing on you.
Please keep checking back for more “how to” guides: “Gareth’s guide to rattlesnake bites” and “How to kitesurf in a tornado“.