Tuesday, January 31, 2012

4.8 quake hits Hurghada

Last night just a little after 8 PM, K and I were chatting in the bedroom when all of a sudden we heard a noise like a truck coming up the street, and the building began to shake. This might sound disconcerting, but seeing as how construction around here is so common place, big trucks rattling up the road isn't uncommon. But when the rumbling reached our levels and the entire room began to shake, it was evident that it was an earthquake.

I realise how non-chalant I must seem about earthquakes now. I posted a blog about the previous earthquake, and mentioned that after living in California they become common place. So for me, it's no big deal. Let's face it, if your building is going to collapse in a quake, there's little you can really do about it. There's no means of predicting them, it's one reason earthquakes can cause such devastating damage.

Last night's quake measured a 4.8 on the Richter scale. In California, this would still be considered a 'mini' quake and really nothing to be all that greatly worried about. But this is in an earthquake prone area, where buildings are built to code. Here that is not the case. Our building rattled for maybe 5 seconds tops, but just in those 5 seconds you could really feel the entire building sway. It's not surprising that the 1992 Egypt quake caused such enormous damage.

In Dahar, a suburb in Hurghada, many of the buildings are hastily erected and follow little to no building codes. Many residents are living below the poverty line and placed in these apartment complexes as a form of government aid. Not surprisingly, after the quake last night there was a mass exodus from these buildings with people milling around in the streets. Their calls have been raised to the governor, demanding adequate housing facilities. Bear in mind many of these buildings already had issues with their construction to begin with, ranging from using cheap concrete material, to burst pipes constantly weakening the fabric of the building, to little to no thought put into the structural integrity of the building. Thank God more damage was not seen around the area.
Panicked Hurghada residents hit the streets following the quake.
Image courtesy of Red Sea News. 

So last night's quake now makes 3 quakes to have hit the Hurghada and Red Sea in the past 3 months. That's more quakes in a 3 month period than have hit Egypt in the almost 6 years I've lived here. What is going on?

MSNBC reports on the increasing earthquakes in the Red Sea, attributing the tremors to the parting of the Red Sea. The African and Arabian tectonic plates are moving apart at an estimated 2 cm a year. These shifts are not, however, gradual. Earthquakes are the symptoms of this and all indications point to them increasing and not decreasing in the coming years. This means for residents of Egypt and the Red Sea in particular that perhaps earthquakes will not be the cause for concern and panic that yesterday's created. I can only hope that they stay around 4 on the Richter scale and we do not see a large quake to hit the area because it would be devastating to say the least.

In the meantime, read up on quakes and begin to understand what they are. Yes, again you can hear them coming. No, there's little you can do to stop them. Yes, it is normal for one person to feel a small quake and the person standing next to you to feel nothing. This does not mean you or your neighbour are going crazy. If the past year in Egypt should have taught us anything, it is that reacting rashly and with panic only creates further chaos. If you don't know the answer to a question, DON'T answer it. Don't spread your own speculations and fears as this will only balloon outwards and before you know it, you're "well maybe" comment has been cemented into 'real facts.' So please, Hurghada, stop panicking! :) 

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