Sunday, April 10, 2011
Last Saturday we were awoken by a shaking of the bed. Actually I was already awake but I wasn't in any hurry to get up. The shaking was accompanied by noise and after a few seconds it was clear to me that this was an earthquake.
I've been through several earthquakes, including the first one I experienced in Idaho back October 28th, 1983. Also in the early morning hours, it was 6.9 quake with an epicenter near Mt. Borah, Idaho's highest peak. It produced some rather spectacular surface faulting that is still very visible today. Though 200 kilometers from my apartment in Boise, it caused a significant amount of shaking.
Later while living in California, a place known for seismic activity, we felt them quite regularly. With the San Andreas fault a short distance away from my house in Pacific Grove, there was always that great rumor that at some point the "big one" would happen and the chunk of land to the west of the fault would go tumbling into the ocean.
This Burundi quake was much less significant in magnitude (4.8) but what made it interesting is that it was the closest I've been to a quake's epicenter. This one was only about 50 kilometers (27 miles) southeast of Bujumbura and thus allowed us to get the most of our 4.8. I haven't heard anything about damage or injuries caused by the quake and I doubt there was much. Most construction here is single story and, though things are generally poorly built, a medium magnitude earthquake is unlikely to do much. However, a severe quake would.
On Monday I was off to Rwanda. I have to say, I'm growing rather fond of the place. Though I prefer Bujumbura to Kigali from an aesthetic point of view, there definitely is an attractiveness to the cleanliness, organization, safety and just general access to things in the Rwandan capital.
The trip was short due to my need to get back to Bujumbura for meetings. Also, Thursday, April 7th was Rwanda's National Mourning Day, a time of remembrance and reflection of the seismic event which took place 17 years ago. It also kicks of Genocide Memorial Week. While I think it would be an interesting experience to be around during that time and learn more about how the country and its citizens, including our own staff, are working through this long and difficult healing process, my responsibilities don't afford me that luxury. It's simply not a good week for me to be there given the distractions to staff and the challenges to getting work done.
So my two colleagues, Felix and Jon, and I caught the 1:00am flight from Kigali to Bujumbura. It's not a pleasant time to travel and I'd tried to get away on a previous afternoon flight but it was cancelled (happens often around here). Misery loves company and the three of us endured the late hours, the very short night's sleep and the full day of work the following day. Fortunately, the weekend lay in waiting.