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11 March 2011

Shaken to the core

It's a terrifying thought: a huge wall of water approaches and there's nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. What on earth would you do, asks Susan Erasmus.

It's a terrifying thought: a huge wall of water approaches and there's nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. Just what on earth would you do, asks Susan Erasmus.

In the ten years I have worked in a newsroom it has only happened three times that groups of journalists have gathered around the 3 TV sets looking grave, shocked and concerned. The first time was 9/11, the second was the day almost the whole ANC government resigned and the third was this morning.

There would have been four, but the previous tsunami struck on December 26 2004 and there were only two people on duty.

At the time I write this, I don't know the outcome of this disaster: an 8.9 earthquake on the Richter scale has hit Japan, causing large-scale destruction and numerous huge fires. Two tsunamis have followed and 53 other countries in the Pacific have also received warnings. This includes many islands whose highest point is lower than the approaching tsunami. We simply cannot imagine what it must be like to be in such a situation.

Around here we have murder and mayhem, but at least the ground beneath our feet is reasonably stable.

Spare a thought for the people of Lisbon who experienced something similar on All Saints Day in 1755. Many of them were in church, and entire congregations were killed as cathedrals collapsed on them when a huge earthquake hit.  The city caught fire and the survivors struggled down to the shore to try and escape the conflagration. Then a tsunami hit and thousands were drowned.

 
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