Earthquake Tremors Felt in Beijing

Click on image to view video of downtown Beijing during earthquake evacuation

Tue 12 May 2008, approx 2.43 pm

I was chatting with Steve in our office on the 21st floor of Jianwai SOHO when a sudden cracking sound interrupted our conversation. Steve went silent for a moment as he stared out the floor-to-ceiling windows behind me.

"Can you feel that? It's swaying," he said. For a second there, I felt dizzy. The building WAS swaying.
"Ok, stay calm. It might be nothing but grab your things and let's take the stairs down," Steve instructed. "It's an earthquake."

My mind went blank. Earthquake? I wouldn't have thought of that coming. But if Steve said so, he's probably right. With Iraq and Indonesia on his CV, he probably has an instinct better than mine.

I shot up from my desk, grabbed my phone and bag and headed out the door. I could see the girls from the cosmetic surgery place next door rushing back into their clinic. Steve and I stomped down the stairs with a million other people rushing down from the floors above us. A cleaning lady stared at us with curiosity as she calmly mopped that patch of cement in front of her. Ayi, it's an earthquake. You can stop with the mopping.

I wasn't sure if it was the stamping from the hordes of people above me, but I thought I felt some vibration in the stairwell as we were heading downwards. We exited the building and walked towards the edge of the compound, away from the tall buildings. Many people were still idling in the courtyard between the complexes. "If these buildings were to collapse, that's not a good spot to be in," pointed Steve. I quickened my pace.

We stood by the side of the road as throngs of office workers joined us out in the open. Some people were still inside their offices. I could see people peering out of their windows on the 2nd and 3rd floors.

It was 2.57 pm. I tried to make a few phone calls but the lines were congested. Everyone was on their phones. Only SMSes could get through on my phone.
Human congestion. Traffic congestion. Phone network congestion. For that moment in time, we were deadlocked.

We stayed outside for about half an hour before returning into the buildings. On the way back, the building management distributed some notices on earthquake prevention measures.

Great. Just when we need it.

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