I’m living in Taiwan, and this country regularly experiences earthquakes because it sits along the ‘Ring of Fire’ seismic fault. Thankfully, it rarely experiences the massive Richter scale 9 ones you hear about on the news. Most are small, but they can still feel scary! The most recent was a Richter scale 6 that happened about three weeks ago, at 5am, and it was big enough to wake me up.
What it feels like to be in an earthquake
It’s an odd feeling – to be woken up by your bed shaking. I’ve experienced about four earthquakes since being here, but this was by far the biggest. The epicentre was about 100km away and at a depth of about 20km.
This earthquake got me worried
Everything is moving
I want you to picture this: you’re sitting in your favourite chair reading a book or having a cup of tea, and without you knowing it, someone has put wheels on the bottom of your chair, so it can move around freely. Imagine as you sit on your chair it unexpectedly starts to move left then right a few centimetres, like two people are moving it with their hands. ‘What! My chair is moving?!’
As you sit there wondering what the hell is going on, a strange but interesting thought comes. You think, ‘Oh, this is actually quite nice, like being on a kids’ ride or being rocked to sleep’.
As you sit there basking in this new sensation, the chair suddenly starts jolting left and right a few centimetres, like the two people are yanking it. You feel it through all your body. “Crap! Give me some warning next time!”
Just as quickly as the yanking started, it goes back to gentle again. You sit there with a nervous smile on your face, the kind of expression that says, “Okay, guys. Haha, funny joke. You can stop now.” But just as you think that the chair suddenly jolts again. It continues this cycle 6 or 7 times, with varying force. You have no idea when it will stop. Now you’re scared.
It’s not a chair that’s moving, it’s your entire house
Now instead of thinking it’s your chair moving, imagine it’s the room you’re in right now. The whole room has wheels underneath it. The same gentle movement happens followed by the bigger jolting ones. Your floor is moving, your walls are moving. The ceiling and everything in the entire room is gently moving, then jolting, back and forth.
You have no idea when it will stop or if it will turn more violent. “Yeah, haha guys. I fucking hate this; you can stop now. Please stop!”.
That’s what it feels like
As I was experiencing the earthquake, I said to myself, “Please stop”. I was still half asleep when it started but at full alert when the big jolts came. It was very early dawn so I did that wide-eyed thing that people do. You know when you hear a noise at night and you lay still with your eyes super wide trying hard to see or hear anything.
I was just laying there being moved about wondering when it would stop. It’s the first time in ages I’ve felt helpless and a bit afraid.
There’s nowhere to run
You can’t go anywhere to escape an earthquake. If you go outside, the road is moving back and forth. If you get in your car that is moving too. There is literally nothing you can do to escape the jolting.
That’s what an earthquake feels like: like your whole house is moving back and forth on wheels, because it is moving! All you can do is crawl under a desk and hope that it ends soon.
Your house makes noises it’s never made before
When the walls and the floor and the ceiling are moving, it means all the concrete and wooden studs and plasterboard and bricks are moving, too. Your house creaks and cracks and groans. You hear doors and windows slamming against their frames.
The drawers in your desk bang against the edge of the desk, anything hanging from the roof will sway back and forth. The water in your water bottle will swish up and down the edges of the bottle. It’s all very unnatural.
Basically, it sucks
Earthquakes suck so much, because you have literally zero warning, you can’t do anything about it and you can’t go anywhere. The only place to escape is in the sky. At least in a hurricane, you can go to a shelter. In a tsunami, you can seek higher ground. In a blizzard, you can stay snuggled next to your heater.
In an earthquake, you can’t do anything to escape. All you can do is hope it’s not big and hope it ends quickly. If it is dangerously big you should get outside, failing that you should go under a desk or table and ride it out.
if you come to taiwan you’ll experience an earthquake.