Thursday, April 6, 2017

Earthquake - The night a 7.8 shook Ecuador #AtoZChallenge

On April 16, 2016 at 6:58pm, my husband and I were reading outside on our second floor deck when we felt a small jolt. Earthquakes are common on the Ecuador coast. We glanced at each other then back at our books. No big deal.
 
Then a large jolt came and got stronger. Huge deal. We jumped up and made our way down the stairs quickly. No easy feat as the stairs, the house and the railing were all moving out of sync with one another.

We stood outside, watching and listening. The car was bouncing off the ground, car alarm screaming. The metal garage door seemed louder than the car alarm. Everything was moving, bouncing and banging.

Then silence and darkness. And fear. A lot of fear. Tsunamis frequently follow big earthquakes. This had been a big one.

The sun sets at the equator at about 6:30 every night. By 6:58, there is no residual light. The entire town of Puerto Lopez was plunged into darkness. Our home on a hill overlooked the town, now a sea of black.

We did a quick inventory. We were okay, the house and buildings were standing. A trip upstairs to retrieve flashlights revealed frightened cats and fallen dishes but nothing more.

Everyone living at sea level was heading for higher ground. Friends and strangers began arriving with varying reports. ¨The town is flattened!¨ ¨The streets are covered in bricks!¨ ¨There are big holes in the walls of my home!¨

Cellular providers were overloaded and no one could call friends or family. Our landlords, who lived downstairs, had been at a dinner party. They and all of the guests arrived and started the generator. With the generator, we had internet and a lifeline to news, friends and family.

Initial reports were all over the map. It was an 8.2 or a 6.9 or a 7.6. Epicenter in Esmeraldas or Manta or Jama, all north of us. A tsunami warning was in effect for the entire coast. The president declared a state of emergency.

Facebook enabled their safety check feature for everyone in the area. We all checked in as safe. We monitored the Ecuador emergency Facebook group, looking for news from others on the ground.

Sometime after Midnight, I received a text message from my cell phone provider urging me to stay calm.  I had to laugh. It was probably supposed to have arrived hours earlier.

Throughout the night, there were terrifying aftershocks. A few people slept inside on beds, sofas, and chairs. Most of the 50 or so people sheltering with us would not enter the house. They sat or stood outside, some in tears.

Thankfully, the tsunami never came.

As the sky began to brighten at 6:00am, a group of us walked into town. We checked on friends´ homes while surveying the damage throughout town. Most buildings were standing.

Some had lost walls.
Front wall collapsed
April 17, 2016
A few were piles of rubble or close to it.
Bedroom on left, dining room and kitchen on right
April 17, 2016

The first floor of the local fire department collapsed. It had been an addition to the original structure, which still stood. The entire building later had to be taken down due to structural damage.
Puerto Lopez fire department
April 17, 2016

Eventually, we went home to begin gathering items and baking food for those who lost everything.

The earthquake was a 7.8, centered 27 km (17 miles) from Pedernales, a beautiful beach town. Pedernales is 200 km (124 miles) north of Puerto Lopez.

We were extremely fortunate that no one lost their life in Puerto Lopez that night.  Communities north of us were not as fortunate. At least 676 people were killed and 16,600 injured in the 2016 Ecuador earthquake.


41 comments:

  1. When a natural disaster strikes it can wreak havoc....my home town Chennai was a victim of tsunamis in 2004... The destruction was terrible..

    E for Egg

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    1. I remember when the tsunamis hit in 2004. So horrible.

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  2. Wow! How scary that must have been! I'm very happy that we don't really get earthquakes in Michigan.
    Discarded Darlings - Jean Davis, Speculative Fiction Writer, A to Z: Editing Fiction

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    1. It was certainly a night none of us here will ever forget.

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  3. I remember seeing this on Facebook. It sounds terrifying! Also, I wonder what factors determine if there is a tsunami or not...

    The Multicolored Diary: WTF - Weird Things in Folktales

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    1. The shallow ones in the ocean seem to be the ones most likely to cause a tsunami. According to the International Tsunami Information Center:
      ¨By far, the most destructive tsunamis are generated from large, shallow earthquakes with an epicenter or fault line near or on the ocean floor.¨

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  4. What an experience! So thankful that you all were spared, but so hard for others that were not. Natural disasters are so gut wrenching to me! :( Thank you for sharing part of this experience with us!

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    1. It was a very difficult time for many who lost loved ones. Thank you for reading and commenting.

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  5. Hush... Natural disaster really wrecks havock... Dwelling in its memories brings goose bumps.
    Very engaging recounting!!!
    -------
    Team MocktailMommies
    Collage Of Life

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    1. Thanks MM. I focus mainly on positive topics but the letter E called out to me to recount this night.

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  6. Very interesting first-hand account. I could "feel" the fear that hit your lives that day. Thanks for re-living that day.
    -- Judy Rinehimer, coolrvers@gmail.com , coolrvers.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you, Judy. That is exactly what I was hoping the reader would experience.

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  7. That's when you need community so you can work through the aftermath.
    A horrendous experience.
    A Piece of Uganda

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    1. So true. In the weeks and months after the earthquake, I was so proud to be a part of this community. Everyone came together and did whatever they were able to do to help.

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  8. I remember it well. Hundreds of miles away, in Cuenca, things in our kitchen rattled and shook. What I remember best, from the safety of our city, is how quickly everyone rallied to send food, water, diapers and money to the coast. Day after day, lines of big trucks left Cuenca filled with supplies. Ecuadorians, and the expats who live here, care nothing of waiting for governments or agencies to step in. You need help? We are here. That's a beautiful motto to live by.

    www.authorjossburnel.com

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    1. In the days, weeks and months following the earthquake, I remember seeing notices and invites for fund raisers in Cuenca. It was heartwarming seeing the whole country come together to help the coast.

      That is a great motto!

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  9. I haven't lived through a major quake, though if I stay in SF I suspect it will happen sooner or later. But I've been close enough to feel several of the large CA quakes in the last 25 years--and even that is scary. I can't imagine going through one the size of the Equador quake. I know my house has lived through at least 2, but I'd still be scared!

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    1. We lived in San Mateo for 15 years before we moved to Ecuador and we certainly had never been through anything like this.

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  10. Haning experienced a very minor earth tremor in Mexico City I have no wish to bw caught in an earthquake.

    [I'm still trying to get the linky thing to work even with your advice]

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    1. You did have a sampling of what it is like to have the earth move.

      [I will comment on your post for today. I have an idea what the issue might be.]

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  11. That must have been a terrifying experience! Waiting for the tsunami to come, harrowing!

    Best wishes,
    Nilanjana
    Madly-in-Verse

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    1. We were so lucky that there was no tsunami. The devastation could have been so much worse.

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  12. Your post is so powerful. I cannot even begin to imagine the fear you must have felt. I can't wait to read more of your blog!

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  13. Wow, that sounds terrifying. I was in Ecuador last year (I understand why you moved there, I wanted to!) and saw some of the damage in Guayaquil, which is even further south. It must have been terrible.

    I am glad you were OK, but sorry so many weren't. Such a lovely place, such a tragedy.

    A to Z Challenge: Entertainment! TV Talk>

    Isa-Lee Wolf

    A Bit 2 Read
    @IsaLeeWolf

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    1. A friend of ours was driving to Guayaquil when the earthquake struck. He said that the road looked like ocean waves.

      I am glad that you have seen this lovely country!

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  14. What a scary story! It's so cool how people in your community congregated together and you baked for them. I hope no more large earthquakes come your way!

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    1. It was wonderful how everyone came together to help. That part of it brings back warm memories. Thanks, I hope for no more large ones too :)

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  15. I'm from Oklahoma so I've seen tornadoes first hand. At least with tornadoes, the meteorologists can track them and we could ride them out in storm shelters. With earthquakes there's no safe place. There is always the great generosity of people helping in the aftermath there, too.
    http://thebookwright.blogspot.com/

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    1. I grew up in Minnesota so I know what you mean with tornadoes. There is usually time to get to a safe place.

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  16. Hi Emily - I've never experienced an earthquake - in Johannesburg there'd be some underground rumblings from mine workings ... gentle shakes. The thought of being in an earthquake and then followed by a tsunami (which fortunately you didn't have) must be horrendous ...

    I think you've just had torrential floods as well ... I can't keep up with everything at the moment! Cheers Hilary

    http://positiveletters.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/f-is-for-feral-goats.html

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    1. Hi Hilary, I imagine that the mining rumblings were similar to our normal, small earthquakes.

      You are right - we have been having torrential rains. Thankfully, the rainy season is ending so hopefully no more rain related issues.

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  17. Wow! I'm glad everyone was ok! We have a few shake downs in Mexico but nothing major since I've lived here. Volcanoes, now that's another story!

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    1. There are some active volcanoes in Ecuador, too. Not near where we live thankfully.

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  18. I was glued to the news about that terrible earthquake! The stories that came out of it too....Wow! Heidi at, Decibel Memos (Perspectives absent of sound)

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    1. It was therapeutic for many people in the weeks that followed to share experiences. Some terrible stories.

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  19. How frightening it must have been. And we get upset over a 4.2 Rumble here that hardly does anything. Although we are seeing more and more earthquakes here in Oklahoma that people says is due to fracking that people do tend to forget that Oklahoma does have a major fault line running through it.

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    1. After living seven miles from the San Andreas fault for 15 years, I thought I knew earthquakes. This experience showed me how wrong I was. Thank goodness they are usually smaller than the 4.2 that you mentioned.

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  20. Wow, glad you got through that ok. Where I live, we don't get earthquakes often, but we are always concerned about tsunamis. So if there is a big earthquake in Chile, we get worried. Maui Jungalow

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  21. Tsunamis are not fun to wait for - not knowing how large they will be or even if they will arrive can keep everyone near the shore on edge.

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