The earth moved again yesterday, causing more evacuations and panic than last week’s shake and sparking a flurry of media reporting on how tremor-proof Dubai’s high-rise buildings are.
There were initial reports that the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa – nearly 1km (828m) high – had been evacuated, but this actually wasn’t true. However, across the city, lines of workers filed down stairs and poured out of buildings to mill around outside, jamming the phone networks as they called family and gazed up at their office towers.
I say ‘filed’ down – but in many cases it wasn’t exactly a leisurely stroll downstairs. “There’s nothing like a bit of an earthquake to make you run down 19 floors,” wrote a friend on Facebook. “Scary as hell!” Another friend and work colleague texted to say she’d legged it from our 20th floor office (I would have done too, wouldn’t you?).
But before telling you my earthquake story, I want to point out I’m well aware we’re fortunate. The UAE isn’t a high-risk earthquake zone; we merely feel the tremors and aftershocks that stem from major earthquakes in Iran.
Yesterday’s, which measured a powerful 7.8 on the Richter scale, hit border regions between Iran and Pakistan; while some say it was the strongest quake to hit the region in 35 years (on par with the earthquake that killed an estimated 68,000 people in Sichuan province, China, in 2008), the number of casualties keeps changing, from at least 40 last night to ‘several’ today, if Iranian TV is to be believed.
The truth is they probably don’t know, because rescue teams were still on their way to the remote regions that were affected, but it’s thought the depth of the quake (50 miles down) may have saved many lives.
In the UAE, by the time the tremors reached us, they were small (between 4 and 5 on the scale), but still shook buildings across the emirate. Tower blocks swayed, books fell off shelves and cars wobbled.
“While stopped at a red light, we felt our car shaking,” a friend said. “My husband and I both looked back to see if our daughter was kicking the seat, then we decided it must be windy.”
“My husband thought someone was outside the SUV messing with him because it was rocking so much,” another friend added.
So did I feel anything this time?
Nope, not even a judder. And I was down in Media City, which judging by the number of evacuations that took place was something of a mini-epicentre. I was doing a half-day at work and had just left my desk, literally five minutes before. I rode the elevator down 20 floors, grabbed a tea in the Bakemart and that’s when it must have happened – as I sat sipping my drink under the eaves of our tower block.
How I managed to not feel a thing, I have no idea.