Saturday, September 04, 2010

Neither stirred nor shaken

First things first: We’re all fine, but it seems this may not have been the best Saturday morning to sleep-in.

At 4:35am this morning, a 7.1 earthquake hit about 30kms west of Christchurch at a depth of about 10km. My “e-friends” heard about the earthquake and were worried about us, particularly since I was unusually late entering the e-world today.

We never felt a thing because we were asleep when the earthquake hit, and it struck a very long way away from us. So, we were completely unaware anything had happened.

We got up late and after breakfast and a few other things I needed to do I finally turned on the computer, around 11am. I checked my email and saw one from the US Consulate with the subject: “FW: Earthquake in Christchurch, Saturday Morning, 4 September 2010: Public Announcement from U.S. Consulate”. Ironically, it was the first I heard about it.

Then I noticed I had some direct messages on Twitter asking if we were okay. I looked at the widget I put at the lower right part of my blog that displays NZ earthquakes and it was showing, it turned out, an aftershock of 4.2. I thought “no big deal, really.” Then, I checked out the NZ Herald website and found the whole thing was covered with earthquake stories (screenshot above). Turns out, it was a very big deal.

So I logged onto Twitter, replied to the direct messages, then posted a general message: “Morning everyone—just turned on the computer. The earthquake was over 760 km (470 US miles) from us, so we're fine. Never knew it happened.” A bit basic, but it got the point across (in 140 characters). I posted to Buzz and updated my status on Facebook and replied to emails. Later, my sister rang. So, I had pretty much all the electronic forms of communication covered there—and now, a blog post, too.

It’s times like these when social media are strongest, because it’s probably the best way not only to share information, but also, as in this case, to let a large number of people know all at once that one is safe. That’s a good thing.

This isn’t the first time e-friends have contacted me about earthquakes in New Zealand or the South Pacific, but this is the biggest so far. About a year ago I posted about an earthquake in Fiordland, because folks overseas had contacted me. In December 2007, I similarly posted about another earthquake because I knew that friends and family in America would probably hear about it. And in February 2007, I posted about a quake we did feel in Auckland.

There’s nothing unusual about earthquakes in New Zealand. There are between 10,000 and 15,000 quakes every year in New Zealand, but only 100-150 are strong enough to be felt. Little wonder this country is sometimes called “The Shaky Isles”.

Sooner or later, there will be a big earthquake that we do feel, possibly in or near Auckland. But at least thanks to social media, I have ways of letting people know as quickly as possible that we’re okay.


John Q. Public said...

When I heard about the earthquake, you and Nigel were the first people I thought of -- but then you are the only people I know in NZ.

Glad you are safe.

toujoursdan said...

I had to explain to Facebook friends that Christchurch is 800km from Auckland and that the reason our mutual Auckland friends hadn't updated their statuses was because it was 4:30am. People just aren't aware of the length of the country.