How to survive an earthquake

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  • Published 20120306
  • ISBN: 9781921922008
  • Extent: 264 pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

THE NUMBERS ROSE slowly, like a cricket innings, and the commentators droned. There was little new information and the television news recycled the same repetitive pictures with a boxed scorecard showing a slowly growing body count. An apartment complex in Islamabad had collapsed: fifteen people missing. An hour later it had turned to twenty-five; by mid-afternoon it was 150. The army had been called up, and stood around with guns looking helpless as rapid-reaction teams with sniffer dogs arrived to pull the living from the vast pile of concrete and dust. The news was the steadily rising death toll and the threat of many more.

But for me, living in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province[i] in 2005, this was no distant event. I had felt the ground shake violently, and had taken cover under my bed as the plaster fell from the ceiling and furniture crashed around me. For a moment it seemed that the walls and the ceiling were swaying in a disjointed waltz. I watched as the fan slowly detached itself from the ceiling, and made the calculation that it was too late to bolt down three flights of stairs. I had heard the term ‘triangulation’ – getting down next to a solid object so that when the roof came down it would form a small triangular, survivable space. But the furniture didn’t look that solid and, as I got down next to the bed, the earth moved again – first from side to side, and then up and down in jolts.

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