Steve's China Blog

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Aftershocks and such

We are still getting aftershocks, but they are less and less frequent and only last a few seconds. According to some news stories (like this one and this one) ChengDu had experienced almost 2,000 aftershocks by Tuesday afternoon, including several aftershocks that were over 6.0 on the Richter scale. Needless to say I have not gotten much sleep the last few days, and am pretty much running on nicotine and nervous energy.

About an hour and a half after my last post we had a really big aftershock (about 6.1), but it only lasted about 10 or 15 seconds. I didn't get as much done on Tuesday that I wanted to do. We did spend some time contacting all of our employees here in ChengDu and checking to see who could work from home; who needed to go back to the office to get belongings; who needed anything, like a place to stay, food, water, etc...

At about 5:00pm I decided to go find a place that had wifi that was not shaking so much and headed over to the Shamrock Pub. There was a pretty good sized crowd at the Shamrock for that early in the day, and it seemed that most people there had laptops and were online. I decided to have some dinner and chat with some people there to hear about what went on in other places.

Some of the stories were quite amazing. Some people (who were outside at the time of the earthquake) told me about how the sidewalks seemed to roll like waves and how the glass front of one building's windows had ripples in it as the force of the shock went through the building. Some stories were kind of funny, like how one person ending up sleeping on the floor in the Shamrock on Monday night, and how some customers at one restaurant cooked for everyone since the cook had left earlier. I didn't stay around there too long, since I needed to wake up early the next morning and do some work from home.

On Wednesday the rain stopped, the sun came out, and things seemed to return to normal somewhat. There were still the aftershocks every once in awhile, but not that many and they weren't that noticeable. I didn't get much work done. I was trying to finish up some online training I had started the week before, but I found it difficult to concentrate. It seemed kind of dreary in my apartment with that big gash in the wall, especially since it seemed so nice outside.

In the afternoon I decided to get out of the apartment for a little while. I went walking around in the apartment complex and found a few places that were very nice, some of which I had never been to... little streams with gold fish, newly planted bamboo forming a wall around a nice place to sit, lots of flowers blooming, and lots and lots of butterflies everywhere. I also noticed that the birds, who had been flying helter-skelter everywhere the last few days, had settled down and were busy chasing bugs. I guess they had not eaten much the last few days with all the craziness going on. I also noticed that a lot more people were heading back to their homes. All of this was really good to see, and really lifted my spirits, which I needed after spending so much time alone in my apartment and not seeing much on the news but death and destruction.

This morning I got word that our office was now open and that we should go work there if possible. We had two separate safety inspections of the building and both found that there was no damage to the structure of the building and the damage was limited to just the outer layer of concrete and paint. The cleaning staff had come in the day before and cleaned out all of the debris. I'm just guessing, but I think that by the afternoon more than 70 percent of our people came into work today. It has been really interesting to hear everyone's stories about what they have been up to since Monday night. Even one of the most senior VPs in IBM Asia Pacific flew out to ChengDu and is here today to work at the office.

I'm still kind of amazed at how lucky ChengDu was to get away so unscathed. We had no buildings collapse, that I know of. I've heard a lot of different explanations as to why people think this is so, such as the ground is a certain density, the rivers running through the area helped like shock absorbers, no mountains nearby, etc... I think it also had to do with the fact that they probably enforced the building standards here better than most places. ChengDu might be the most laid-back city in China, but people here actually do get their jobs done. Unlike other places I have been in China where people seem very busy, but things just don't get done. I also think we were just really really lucky.

All of the aftershocks and tremors, along with lack of sleep, has had a strange effect on me during the last few days... Sometimes I would try and lie down and catch a quick nap, but I found that when I would lay down I felt like I was on a boat. Is that the ground moving, the building moving, or just me? Sometimes I get that feeling even when I am standing up, or sitting at my computer. At home I just have to look at the drape cord near my computer to see if there really is some movement. Once I noticed that the light fixture that hangs above my computer was moving and thought an aftershock was coming, only to realize I had turned on the air-conditioner earlier and that was what was moving the light around. Strange, huh?

Anyways, I think after a few days working at the office and then I nice relaxing weekend I'll be back to normal.


  • Steve,

    Glad to see you are fine in ChengDu. Say hello to other guys in CD.


    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 3:39 AM  

  • Very neat blog.

    By Anonymous 贺龙, at 6:43 PM  

  • Hey Tony! Glad to hear from you. I hope things are going well with you all.

    Glad you like the blog. :)

    By Blogger Steve Harms, at 10:18 AM  

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