Thursday, 13 September 2007

The Day the Earth Moved

Last night the earth moved for me - and for most of Singapore.

Just after 7 pm as I was sitting at the keyboard our condo building started to sway gently. At first I thought that my chair was not level but then the sensation started again.

There was one immediate explanation - an earthquake.

Coming as I do from "the shaky isles" as New Zealand is sometimes known, I was no stranger to this type of disquieting event. But is is a rare phenomonon in Singapore which is well over 700 kilometres away from any seismic plates.

It was clear that for us to feel it there must have been a massive rupture of the earth near Indonesia and this proved to be so. An earthquake of 8.5 on the richter scale was recorded in Sumatra. This morning there was another of similar magnitude.

So far there have been no reports of any damage in Singapore and the government has reassured residents that buildings here are designed for such events.

However I am glad our own condo is not built on reclaimed land as much of Singapore is. Liquefaction can be a serious problem even when the epicentre of a 'quake is far away.

Today I joined my colleagues for a staff event. We bussed to the recently refurbished National Museum and spent a very pleasant coupe of hours enjoys the spaces and exhibits.

I was reminded by one feature that has been retained - a wrought iron spiral staircase - of the ghostly apparitions that are said by some to frequent the building.

When my wife was a school girl they were told by their teachers that if they ever dared to climb the stair unspeakable horrors would befall them.

Later when I told this story to a former director the museum (who is a personal friend) he shared another version of this story, that a taxidermist lived at the top of the stair, lying in wait for recalcitrant children. No doubt an excellent control measure for school groups!

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