As anybody who follows any news at all knows by now, there was a major earthquake in Chile on Saturday. The magnitude was 8.8 on the Richter Scale. Remember the January earthquake in Haiti? It was a 7.0 magnitude. Do you know what the difference between the two is? I knew it was a big difference, but I was surprised when there was a Geologist on CNN explaining the difference between a 7.0 Quake and an 8.8. An 8.8 Quake is approximately 900 times more powerful than a 7.0. So, there were more than 200,000 people killed in Haiti in January, and the Chile Quake was 900 times more powerful! Can you imagine?
Twice in my lifetime, I have been in a 7+ magnitude earthquake. The first time was sometime in the early 90’s, I’ve forgotten the actual year that it occurred. We were in General Santos City. We had just arrived in the morning for a vacation, and in the late afternoon the earth shook. Somehow, it didn’t seem that bad to us at that time. Having just spent nearly 24 hours on airplanes, we still didn’t have our “land legs” yet, and everything was seeming a bit wobbly anyway, so the earthquake just seemed to intensify that a bit. A few weeks later, when we returned home to the States, I was reading in the newspaper that there had been a major quake in the Philippines, in General Santos City. I looked at the time and date of the event, and immediately realized that we were there, and we did remember experiencing something weird at the time. While that event was strange to us, we didn’t really find it scary. I attribute that to the fact that we had just arrived from a long journey and were still somewhat out of sorts at the time.
The second big quake that I lived through was on January 1, 2002, New Years Day. We had been up late for New Years Eve, and it was my intention to sleep in and catch up on my rest. Surprise, surprise, though… we ended up being shaken out of bed on New Years Morning. Yes, at about 5:20 am as I recall, I landed on the floor after falling out of the bed. There was a 7.0 Quake that had just hit. Feyma and I were literally thrown to the floor. Feyma immediately ran to the kid’s bedroom, I had a hard time getting up from the floor, but made my way into the doorway between our bedroom and the bathroom. I was yelling to Feyma to just gather the kids and stay in a doorway, don’t try to go outside or bring everybody to be with me. The shaking seemed to go on forever, and as I recall, we were literally crying in fear. I honestly thought that I was going to die that day. Frankly, it scared the hell out of me.
During my lifetime, I have lived in a lot of places that had earthquakes regularly, including California. I can’t say for sure how many, but I would bet that in my 48 years on the earth I have probably experienced at least 1,000 earthquakes. No place that I have lived in my life has been as geologically active as Mindanao, though. We get earthquakes in Mindanao several times per week, on average. Most of them are so small that you cannot feel them. Probably 6 or 8 times per year we have a quake of sufficient size that we feel it, and some of them are somewhat significant quakes in the 4 or 5 range on the Richter Scale.
When I experienced that New Years 2002 quake, something in me changed. Before that, if I experienced a small earthquake of 3 to 5 on the Richter Scale, it really didn’t bother me, in fact, it was kind of fun. That 2002 quake, though, gave me a new respect, and a fear of earthquakes. Since that big quake, I have been of the belief that there is a good chance that I will die in an earthquake. I hope it isn’t for a long, long time, but in my mind, that is what I think. Now, even when there is a small quake, my first thought is that “this could be a big one” just getting started. I debate in my mind what I should do, maybe go under my desk, check on the family, whatever. After a second or two, and it is obvious that it is only a small quake, my heart eases back to normal, and I relax. But, the fear is there. I don’t like that, because I didn’t have this fear before the big New Years quake.
This past weekend was a bit spooky for me. On Friday afternoon and evening, we experienced 3 relatively large quakes here in Mindanao. I reported on Facebook at about 5pm on Friday that we were currently experiencing a quake in Davao, which turned out to be a 5.8. Later that night, close to Midnight, we had another 5+ quake, although I was sleeping and did not wake up. Also, on Friday, Northern Mindanao had a significant quake in the 5 range. So, Friday was a geologically active day in Mindanao. Then, on Saturday, around mid-day, my friend, and LiP participant, Henry Stewart sent me a message on Facebook. He said, in response to my message about the earthquake in Davao:
Looks like something for me to look forward to?
Henry went on to tell me that he had never experienced an earthquake in his life. It kind of surprised me, because I know that Henry has been to Davao at least twice, and it would kind of be expected to have experienced an earthquake here during his visits. Anyway, I told Henry just to hope we didn’t have anything like what Haiti had just experienced. It was only a few hours later that the 8.8 hit in Chile, one of the most powerful earthquakes in recorded history.
So, this is what is like living on the Ring of Fire. What is the Ring of Fire, you ask? Well, The Ring of Fire is the most geologically active part of the earth, it encircles the Pacific Ocean, running up and down the coast of North and South America, and the Pacific Coast in Asia. The Philippines sits right on top of the Ring of Fire. That’s why we have lots of earthquakes here, and other things like Volcanoes. It’s not only Mindanao that gets the earthquakes either. In 1990 there was a killer earthquake in Baguio City, and there have been other significant quakes in every part of the Philippines. However, I believe, that the vast majority of the quakes in the Philippines happen in the Mindanao region. A particularly active quake zone near Mindanao is in the seas between Mindanao and Indonesia. Of course, over the past decade, Indonesia has been the king of big quakes, especially down in the Sumatra and Aceh regions.
So, if you decide to come and live in the Philippines, keep in mind, you are going to be living right on top of the Ring of Fire. For some who have never had the experience, riding out a 4 or 5 Intensity earthquake might be considered fun, kind of like hitting the roller coaster at Six Flags or some such place. But, believe me, if you happen to get hit with a big quake, it’s not fun. It’s life and death staring you in the face. You can’t understand the feeling until you experience it. I hope that I won’t ever experience it again, but I doubt that I will be that lucky.