Bet you thought I would follow up my last post on what it was like to watch the elections unfold and the preliminary results. Well, instead I just wanted to let everyone know it’s so far so good here after the 8.7 magnitude earthquake we had at about 3:00pm this afternoon and the two after shocks. Our supervisor had installed an earthquake alarm in the office, so the alarm went off before we even felt anything. Though even without the alarm we would have quickly realized that the ground was swaying under our feet.
The craziest part wasn’t the earthquake, which didn’t do much structural damage as far as I have heard (there has been no damage here at the office, but a co-worker was in an all-glass bank building downtown where it shattered around them). But as the ground got to moving and it just kept on going, the folks that were here in 2004 were really starting to panic. Our logistics department head didn’t even wait for the ground to stop shaking, but immediately got on his motorbike to find his family. Our guard who had lost family had bright red teary eyes. People were hunkered to the ground. Some were chanting prayers. After it stopped pretty much everyone left the office to check on their families.
We had the gates wide open in case they fell on top of us, and pretty soon we saw a steady stream of people on motorbikes, cars, becaks (which is like a motorcycle with a sidecar taxi), even one family sitting on top of a motorcycle ice cream “truck.” This is the area where people come, because it’s the tsunami green zone above the waterline. But of course the aftershock did not make people feel any safer. One of the office cars had made it back, and we could see it shaking and swaying. The phones have been touch-and-go, because every single person in Aceh has been trying to get in touch with one another. The power is out. However, the office has a generator and with the electricity on the internet is working just fine (apparently), so there’s hope for things to return to normal quickly. And in any case, so far so good. The UN put a tsunami alert until 7:45pm, which was five minutes ago. Plus this was a much smaller and shorter earthquake than that it 2004.
Now just mere seconds after I published the post, the electricity is back on! Also, I just wanted to give credit to fantastic Matt who is back in Ambon clear on the other side of the country. I was able to send him a quick text message saying I was ok before the phone lines became completely jammed. He must have called a million times over the last few hours just to get in a few short conversations.