Seconds of ‘terror and excitement’

2014-08-06 00:00

“EXCITING and terrifying.”

This was one of the reactions to the tremor felt by some residents in parts of Pietermaritzburg and in Hilton yesterday.

The city appeared to live up to its “Sleepy Hollow” nickname as most residents were oblivious to the drama in other parts of the country that experienced an earthquake measuring 5.5.

Craig Blore, of Britz Blore and Associates, said they had felt movement in their offices at the Hilltops Office Park in Clarendon.

“There were two tremors. The first one lasted for about three seconds and then there was a little break and there was a second one which lasted a little longer.

“It was then that people became a little worried,” he said.

“People were concerned and they came out of their offices. Everything was shaking.”

The tremor was not severe enough to cause the building’s evacuation.

Keith Fairweather, marketing director at Hilton College, said the tremor was both exciting and terrifying at the same time.

“I have never felt anything like that in my life … It lasted a good 10 seconds,” he said.

Fairweather said he was in an upstairs office at the school, talking to a prospective parent from Tanzania, when the doors and window started shaking.

“Her eyes got bigger and we both said at the same time, ‘Let’s go outside’.” He said not many of the pupils appeared to have felt the tremor and there had been no need to evacuate. “I went to check with the teachers. If it had been serious, we would have sounded the alarm to evacuate.”

A staff member at Victoria Country Club said they had received calls from people who had heard a rumour that the club had been evacuated. However, they had not even felt the tremor.

Michele Tanner, an employee at The Wykeham Collegiate school, said she’d felt a slight tremor lasting a “few seconds”.

There was no need to evacuate any classrooms.

Clarendon resident Brian Bassett said he felt “a bit strange” and his house “made funny noises”, but it was over in seconds.

The tremor appeared to have been much stronger in Durban, where people streamed out of buildings in the CBD in terror.

Rouel Singh said the quake had felt like the onset of vertigo before panic set in.

“I was standing at my desk, casually flipping through a file while I had someone on the telephone line. Then a lady who sits across me says, ‘Oh my god, what is shaking our desk like this?’ I replied, ‘No, it’s just me. I’m feeling dizzy’.

“Then I looked at the water in my glass swaying from side to side — I didn’t even tell the person on the phone I had to go.

“I slammed my phone down and ran out my office. A few seconds later all the people from other offices around us were outside,” he said.

Asked if Pietermaritzburg’s disaster management team were ready to deal with the challenges of an earthquake, Msunduzi municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi said it would depend on the scale.

In general, Southern Africa is not prone to earthquakes, which are more usual in the mining areas like Gauteng.

In the event of a major earthquake that would collapse buildings, roads and housing infrastructure, they would have to call on national departments for help, said Nkosi.

Municipal authorities at Estcourt, Mooi River and Howick said their areas had not experienced the tremor.

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