I stayed on the top floor of the hotel during the earthquake.
I trusted that the building-code in this part of the world
was as strict as it was at home and that the building I was in
was built with some sort of mechanism or material,
like giant rubber shock-absorbers, allowing it to sway
and dampening the effects of the jolts and tremors;
although, at home, I had never had the opportunity
to experience what being at the top of a building
fitted with such a mechanism during
an earthquake might feel like.
I virtually had the presidential suite here.
I couldn’t afford this sort of luxury at home.
It wouldn’t, however, do me much good
if the building was not at its foundation
resting on some kind of dampening system,
whether rubber or water. Because, now
I thought of it, water equally would provide
an adequate interface between the shaking earth
and the building standing upright from it,
the ‘swaying reed,’ I supposed,
protecting it from the worst effects, which,
on consideration, would have less to do
with the earth moving, with the quake itself,
than with the materials used in construction
cracking and crumbling,
splintering and shearing,
concrete and steel.
I looked around. The fittings and fixtures were modern.
Surely the shell of the building was too.
Surely it was built after the introduction
of a modern and responsible building-code.
This was not a lackadaisical people.
They were well-organised and group-oriented.
Generally, I had no complaints to make
about public transport or any other obvious
aspects of the infrastructure.
The lights went on when you flicked the switch.
The water came when you turned the tap.
If I was going to be killed here, what then?
I’d insisted on staying rather
than descending to a lower floor.
What had the voice said again?
‘For your own protection and
the prevention of loss of life,
the management recommends
you make your way
by the nearest stairwell
to a public gathering point
on one of the lower floors.’
One of them? What had she meant?
It was too late anyway.
I went to the window.
Buildings were swaying
in every direction.
And just then the floor
began to tilt.
The noise was incredible.
You fully expected
this was the end.
It sounded like the hotel
was breaking into pieces
and the pieces were grating
up against one another.
The building graunched and creaked.
This was it.
While, at the back of your mind,
you said to yourself,
‘No, no. It can’t be.
It’s a modern building.
It will have been built to the
highest engineering specifications.
This is all quite normal.