Language teachers Vivian and Keith Suttenfield, formally of Booyong, in Fuyang, China.
Language teachers Vivian and Keith Suttenfield, formally of Booyong, in Fuyang, China. The Northern Star

"I think it's an earthquake"

I WAS on the 18th floor of a building last Monday when the earthquake hit.

My initial feeling was one of sudden vertigo, even though I was sitting down at the time.

As this feeling rapidly escalated I became alarmed, thinking I was having a major health problem.

I informed my husband, Keith. Within about 30 seconds he said: "I think this is an earthquake."

By now several other colleagues were feeling like me, including Keith, and the general energy level around us began to escalate.

My instinct was to leave the building as I had visions of it collapsing, but Keith felt we would be safer staying inside.

The feeling of vertigo lasted about two very long minutes.

As we work in a language school I asked another teacher what the school's emergency plan was.

"There is none," he said. "This is China."

I was concerned not only for my own safety but for the 30 or so students and other staff.

We just stayed still, not sure what to do.

Once the building stopped swaying I went to a window to see what was happening in the street below.

People were going about their business as usual.

Hefei is undergoing major reconstruction work so there was a thought initially that our building had been undermined and might collapse.

I felt quite emotionally rattled for some hours after the event. I think this was because it all happened so fast, from the initial dizzy feeling to the realisation of what was happening, followed by the fear of dying in China without seeing my family again.

I had to teach a class 30 minutes after the event.

We quickly sent out an email to friends and family and soon began to receive replies from concerned, but relieved, people all over the world.

The Chinese are very nationalistic and are rallying to the government's call for support. We have seen long queues of mainly young people lining up to donate blood at mobile bus clinics.

The people I have spoken to all feel deeply affected by the tragedy.

People who were not in a building reported being unaware of the earthquake at all.

We feel lucky not to have been any closer to the epicentre as what we felt here will stay in my mind for a long time.

Want to know more?
China mourns its dead a week after quake.


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