|Volume No. 1 Issue No. 63 - Wednesday November 24, 2004|
|Earthquake Leaves Confusion and Unanswered Questions |
Sunday November 21, 2004 have gained its place alongside the transforming events in Dominica history. Dominicans remember hurricane David and the horror of that day in 1979, and its aftermath. That infamous day and the events of this past Sunday are arguably the two most important days in the life of our country. Just like August 29, 1979 changed our perception of hurricanes, so too November 21, 2004 have changed the way we will forever view earthquakes.
While the amount of destruction caused by the great earthquake of 2004 never matched the scale of destruction of hurricane David, it nonetheless ranks with the hurricane in forcing us to take a closer look at the many vulnerabilities which faces us as a Nation.
As with Hurricane David, we were woefully unprepared for such an occurrence. Dominican residents had never experienced a major earthquake. In the past we had become accustomed to the frequent, barely discernable tremors that is linked to the country’s volcanic activity, but never this, no not even in our wildest imaginings.
Since the passing of hurricane David, Dominicans always felt that they were prepared for the occurrence of another major natural disaster. Most new houses were built of concrete, including their roofs, and where possible a basement was added for good measure. Massive concrete structures in schools and churches were considered safe shelters for the less fortunate.
We also knew that we could depend on early warnings of hurricanes to take shelter. Disaster preparedness personnel reminded us over and over again of what to do in the event of a storm. Even warnings of volcanic eruption did not phase us. Those who knew of these occurrences assured us that we would have ample warnings. Safe zones were marked out, a simulation exercise for a major eruption was conducted, and careful plans laid. We were after all prepared, or were we?
Unfortunately, our disaster planning never considered the event of a catastrophic earthquake. When the world shook on that fateful morning, we were frightened and confused. No one was sure what to do with several people choosing to stay indoors, either too afraid to go outside or too stricken with fear to react.
Still dazed, people dashed to the internet, after the fact, to find out where is the best place to remain during an earthquake. Was it outside in the open, was it under a table, in the bathroom, or was it as some stressed, between the doorframe.
As was the case after hurricane David, people were convinced that this was a sure sign that God was sending a message to the very religious people of the country. This had to be a wakeup call of the impending end of the world. How else to explain fourteen days of almost constant rains, and then this. For those who felt the quake, saw their television sets dance the belaire, and looked in disbelief at a toppled church steeple, that was just what we needed to come together as a Nation. There was too much strife, and far too much division along religious and political lines.
So while we may all disagree on why this is happening to us at this time, there is no dispute that we were mercifully spared. An epicenter situated maybe two or three kilometers closer to the coast could spell disaster. Hopefully, we will never forget that day when the earth shook and take measures to strengthen building codes and better prepare ourselves for the next time.