I woke up at 04: 57 this morning. Not because of a bad dream, or anxiety – though I have plenty – but because of an earthquake. It wasn’t a big one, just 4.4 on the Richter scale, but we really felt it because the epicenter was near Athens and it’s depth quite shallow – just 5 km.
According to the Greek Institute of Geodynamics, we’ve had 30 small earthquakes in the country since this morning (local time is now 19:35).
This is not really news. The wider Mediterranean area has seen many earthquakes and people have learned to live with them. The African plate is subducting under the Eurasian and Anatolian plates and Greece is sitting right on the ridge – and a trench. It was only news because we hadn’t felt one for quite some time, so last night’s tremble was actually welcomed. Geologists say it’s better to have many small-scale earthquakes which allow energy to be released on a regular basis.
That’s little Greece with it’s ridge and volcanoes (yes, we also have volcanoes):
What scares me most about tremors is the sound. I know those of you who live in similarly seismic regions of the world know exactly what I mean. The sound caused by an earthquake is like no other. First, there’s a deep roaring sound which seems to come from everywhere and surrounds you completely. Then you hear metal objects clanging and rattling, the light fixtures swing left and right making a clicky noise, some pens roll over the edge of the table and after a few seconds (if you’re lucky), it’s over.
In my lifetime, I remember two big earthquakes in or close to Athens – in 1981 and in 1999. In the first one, I remember distinctly waking up because my bed was shaking so much I thought my sister was playing a practical joke. She wasn’t. I think we then left the house for a while. The second one in 1999, I was in a taxi and we had just stopped at a traffic light in northern Athens when the car started swinging back and forth and I turned my head to see who was doing it. It lasted for quite a while and I knew then and there thee would be many damages.
We are always waiting for the “big one” and at the same time we know there will be more than one. It’s not that people live in fear. Earthquakes are so common they have become a banality. But you do get a clear sense of nature’s immense power and our fleeting, minuscule existence. I keep a small flashlight in my bed side drawer, just in case. You’re also supposed to keep a whistle nearby, but I never seem to get round to it.
Here’s to those who live with earthquakes and other natural disasters. Chin, chin!