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Thrills a go-go

So, I was just on my way out today when the earthquake hit. I was in the bedroom getting some stuff together and AAH was standing yacking away at me when I felt trembling and heard that eerie, creepy kind of rumble that always accompanies earthquakes. AAH didn’t notice, just kept talking, until I grabbed her and made for the doorway, and we stood there while the house shook all around us. Polly flew up screeching, the door to the hall cupboard flew open and the little lantern I have hung up in the hallway started swinging alarmingly back and forth. This seemed to last forever.

The most scary thing about earthquakes I find is the absolute powerlessness you feel in the face of their hugeness. The second most scary thing is not knowing if it’s over. Is this it, or is there more to come? Or – is there something bigger on the way? The shock hits afterwards: HOLY SHIT, that was an earthquake, should I run outside – or what?

The phone rang immediately; it was EPI calling from work, but as soon as I picked up the receiver it went dead and there was no way to get a connection for the next 15 minutes or so, neither with a landline nor GSM. Connection soon resumed, but police and civil defence were asking people not to use their phones unless absolutely necessary, to keep lines free for emergencies.

Anyway, it soon transpired that the epicenter was near Selfoss, about an hours’ drive from here [as it was the last time we had a major quake, in 2000] and the quake was somewhere between 6.1 and 6.7 on the Richter scale [reports vary]. I had the radio on in the car and there were live reports from Selfoss, where the reporter was clearly very shaken. Thankfully there were no major injuries to people [one good thing about living in Niceland is that they’re sticklers about building standards over here] but as you can imagine there was a fair bit of damage – outhouses collapsed at farms so sheep and lambs had to be put down, things fell off walls and shelves, household items were smashed, there was damage to roads and bridges, and there were landslides in various places. For the longest time people were strongly advised not to go back inside buildings for fear of another quake; the hospital and seniors’ home were evacuated and shelters were [and have been] set up both in Selfoss and here in Reykjavík, for people who can’t or don’t want to spend the night at home. Some buildings [like the hospital] are heavily damaged, with deep cracks in the walls and such, so obviously remaining inside is risky.

EPI’s brother lives in Selfoss; EPI spoke to him earlier. Turns out nothing was damaged at their place except for one egg cup that broke, which must be considered lucky since their massive mutha of a stove [it’s got three ovens in it] actually moved about 5 cm across the floor. Also, EPI’s brother had just finished some stonework in front of the house [a low wall of some sort] which was flattened. EPI was kind of concerned that their turf roof would have slid right off the sides, which would have been kind of unfortunate – but he needn’t have worried, it remained firmly in place so they’ll be spared the experience of sleeping under the stars.

Meanwhile, seismologists have determined that a major aftershock is not very likely since there were actually two earthquakes this afternoon, rather than one [which presumably accounts for how long it seemed to last]. Note bene, this is not counting smaller tremor that happened both before and after, and are still going on. This will also have eased a fair bit of the tension, which means that the people of Selfoss whose houses were not damaged are now officially free to sleep at home tonight. The others will have to spend the night elsewhere.

So the peeps of Selfoss could pass the time outdoors this afternoon without too much trouble. According to the reporter I listened to in the car, where she was standing women had come running outside in their bare feet – they’d been in the middle of a pedicure at a beauty salon, while others were having their hair highlighted so had a head full of aluminium foil [wonder what their hair looks like now!]. It was another utterly gorgeous day, right now we have 10°C [50F] and sunrise this morning was at 3.30 am, sunset due in exactly an hour, at 11.22 pm.



Comments on this entry are closed.

  • andrea May 29, 2008, 11:41 pm

    This is the first I’ve heard of it. Glad to hear you’re OK. Still waiting for the big one here…

  • Jon May 30, 2008, 1:07 am

    I am glad that everyone is well. I have never experienced an earthquake and do not feel that I really want to.

  • Bluegrass Mama May 30, 2008, 1:07 am

    Thanks for the update!

  • Valerie in San Diego May 30, 2008, 1:12 am

    Glad you and yours are doing fine. Thanks for the report!

  • Jamie May 30, 2008, 3:27 am

    I saw news of the earthquake on Yahoo and came straight here to make sure you were OK! I’m glad the Icelandic people are such sticklers about building standards. 🙂

  • LynnH May 30, 2008, 5:42 am

    So glad you are OK. Do hug your loved ones now that the dust has settled.

    Life is short, life is precious. These things help us remember that.

    Hugs, LynnH in Michigan, USA (where we’ve had 2 tiny earthquakes in 20 years and I never felt either one)

  • als May 30, 2008, 6:32 am

    I’m so happy to hear that you and yours are well, and that there were no major injuries.

  • mary May 30, 2008, 9:06 am

    Thanks for the post, glad all is ok.

  • Karen May 30, 2008, 9:43 am

    We were on the observation platform at the top of ;THORN&hingvellir at the very moment the earthquake hit. It was….. freaky.

    And the nice lady in the visitor centre asked us not to walk back down the continental divide afterwards, for fear of aftershocks and falling rocks.
    Trust me, that was quite suddenly, not a place I wanted to be!


  • Karen May 30, 2008, 9:46 am

    Þhingvellir! Oh duh, I´m in a net cafe waiting for a flybus with an Icelandic keyboard – I could have spelled it correctly without looking for the html alt code!

  • Chris May 30, 2008, 10:03 am

    Yes, this was quite shocking. I was at work in the 5th floor, and building moved quite a lot. In the beginning it felt like 100 big trucks were passing by and then it got much stronger…

  • alda May 30, 2008, 10:04 am

    Thank you all for your kind words and good wishes. Yes we’re all fine, we got rocked here in Reykjavík but nothing like the good people of Selfoss and surrounding regions. And the poor sheep … 🙁

    Karen – I presume, then, you’re leaving the country … what a way to go out – with a bang!

    Chris – that’s an excellent description … that’s pretty much how I experienced it, too.

  • Karen May 30, 2008, 10:28 am

    Alda – you have a stunningly beautiful country here, even with the bumps! It’s been a great trip and I’m certainly going to miss it.

    We’re off to the airport via the Blue Lagoon shortly and then home to Ontario.


  • Dave Hambidge May 30, 2008, 12:49 pm

    Great to hear that all is OK.

    Loke the new style blog BTW


  • Kris May 30, 2008, 5:54 pm

    Wow, another big one! My husband and I were there in 200o for the quakes on June 17 and 21st. It was a surreal experience to wake up to the building swaying on the 21st. (Surprisingly, our dog just grumbled at being woken up, climbed onto the bed and went back to sleep.)
    I called to check on friends after all the commotion yesterday. Very glad to hear that everyone was safe. I think that the gaurdian angels have been working overtime in the Suderlands 🙂 I’m sure that the loss of property is upsetting, but loss of life or limb would have been far worse. Hopefully the worst of the rocking and rolling is finished and summer can continue uninterrupted!!! I even heard that Hvergerdi now has a new Geysir/ hot spring. Never a dull moment in Iceland 🙂

  • Colin May 30, 2008, 8:57 pm

    Add me to the list of people who are pleased you’re all well. Having been through a couple of doozies including a 6.7 in California, the novelty wears off pretty fast.

  • Steve May 30, 2008, 9:04 pm

    On the lighter side…Around here, if an *outbuilding* collapses, the livestock may be in trouble. If an *outhouse* collapses, YOU may be in trouble. And, generally speaking, outhouses are not shared with livestock! Good to hear you`re all okay.

  • Karen May 30, 2008, 9:18 pm

    Glad you are okay too, it must be awful to experience something like that, I can imagine what they went through in China too, and also Burma,
    the feeling of powerlessness and waiting is I am sure not a pleasant one, I am sure,

    Karen Cambridge MA USA

    The closest thing to this for me was September 11, and wondering when the next terrorist attack would come

  • Karen May 30, 2008, 9:19 pm

    We have had small tremors here in New England but nothing big

  • Runa May 30, 2008, 10:04 pm

    Very glad you are all OK, it must have been a frightening experience, but perhaps helps to put the credit crunch in perspective!

  • linguaphile May 31, 2008, 2:47 am

    We recently had an earthquake in Chicago. Although it was not quite as big as the Icelandic version, it was big enough to cause my husband to sit up out of a sound sleep (it happened at about 3am) and our cockatiel to start squawking. Glad that you and your family (and Polly) are all well. It is a really odd feeling, isn’t it?

  • Karen May 31, 2008, 3:26 am

    of course Sept 11, was not a an act of nature, it was a different type of act, one of violence

  • Karen May 31, 2008, 3:28 am

    One thing is for sure, when something big happens, everything seems so small, all the stupid things we worry about and take for granted. It does seem to take something big to realize it

  • Rozanne May 31, 2008, 4:48 am

    Glad everyone’s OK. So scary! Esp. the fact that major damage was incurred at a hospital. Think how bad that would have been if there’d been lots of injuries.

    BTW: (SAB), Oregon is earthquake-prone, too, although I’ve never experienced one.

  • Mouse May 31, 2008, 6:17 am

    I heard about your earthquake on French news
    Do they happen often?
    I guess you have a fault????

  • Keera May 31, 2008, 3:07 pm

    That was some serious shaking! I’m glad nobody was killed besides the sheep. I’m also glad you knew to go stand in the doorway (Californians have earthquake drills, not fire drills in school).

    So, does any of this mean a new island off your coast? One of my most memorable Norwegian school memories is watching a B&W film showing Surtsey forming. Remembering that got me an A in modern dance in college when I was pretending to create the Earth. (Thanks, Iceland!)

  • VioletSky May 31, 2008, 11:17 pm

    I once slept through an earthquake – woke up with the bed on the other side of the room. Obviously not as major as the one you experienced. Glad to read you are all okay. Sad about the sheep, though.

  • Rick June 1, 2008, 10:17 am

    Frightening but I’m glad the personal damage was minimal.

    Maybe someone in Selfoss was playing Björk’s new album too loudly – that triggered the plates moving.

  • alda June 1, 2008, 12:30 pm

    Hi everyone – thanks for your comments.

    Kris – yes, there’s lots more geothermal activity now. It looks like old Geysir might even blow!

    linguaphile – yes, it is definitely an odd feeling. To put it mildly!

    Mouse – yes, we have lots of faults here. 🙂

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