Saturday, November 12, 2005


Quakes on the road
H. Kishie Singh

Illustration by Sandeep JoshiIT was about 9.20 on a calm, sunny day when we felt the earthquake. We were a part of the 97-vehicle convoy heading from Kargil to Srinagar. The road was atrocious. Broken, pot-holed, muddy. Everyone was bouncing around on their road springs. So the force of the earthquake was lost on us. Almost everyone I spoke to hadnít felt the earthquake. Itís only when we stopped to re-group near the Dal lake that we found out that the quake had been quite violent.

As we waited, the second and third aftershock waves hit us. There was nothing we could do. We were lucky to be in the open. No buildings, no pylons. We just had a huge lake on our right.

We had a long wait at the regroup and as we stood around discussing the recent event, we could not come up with "preventive measures" that one should take in case of an earthquake. We came to the conclusion that most drivers would be unaware of the earth moving.

Yet there were indications that something was amiss when the convoy was driving through a bazaar around the time of the earthquake. People were running helter-skelter. Some men were hugging each other, some were squatting on the ground. We found such display of behaviour strange. But, we failed to recognise and read anything into this strange behaviour.

Jungle folklore will tell you that animals and birds display strange and unusual behaviour just before an earthquake. May be they pick up the earthís rumblings with their super-sensitive senses before we actually feel them, but they do give us a warning.

So, now you know how to find out if there is a quake in progress. Watch out for strange and different behaviour of people as you drive. It means the earth is quaking.

Now, what to do? Go away from tall buildings. Donít park under trees, they may fall on your car. If you are in the city, head for a park or any open area. If the roads are blocked due to rubble and debris and buildings are likely to rain bricks and mortar onto your head, get under the car. You will be amazed at the weight a car standing on its tyres can withstand before caving in.

I can tell you from personal experience that the McPherson suspension of a Toyota Corolla can take the weight of a fully grown elephant and not suffer any ill-effects. Even though an elephant had climbed onto the bonnet and broken the windshield, there was no damage to the suspension or steering. Such is the strength built into a car. In case of an earthquake, the safest place for you and your family would be under the car. Also, in case you get stuck under the car, a lot of oxygen would be available from the air around you. Caught in such a crisis, you would have to relax, rest, regulate your breathing and hope for the best.

Happy motoring.