Santiago de Cuba.-In years to come, many of the people of Santiago de Cuba will still remember the days following Sunday January 17 2016, when the ground beneath their feet frequently shook, leaving them alarmed and concerned about the possibility that the tremors were a precursor to a larger, impending earthquake.
Just as older people who had their previous experiences of tremors brought to mind by these events, they will remain indefinitely in the city’s collective memory.
Hundreds of tremors occurred, commencing at 1.37 am on that date, 25 of which -- registering in magnitude of between 2.7 and 5 on the Richter scale -- were perceptible.
There is in reality a lack of statistical analysis against which to compare this behavioral anomaly, given that over the course of the first three days in question, the number of perceptible tremors exceeded recorded annual averages.
The National Center for Earthquake Research and the Cuban National Seismological Service (SSNC in Spansih) assumed the great responsibility of monitoring the situation and communicating the necessary information to the authorities, the Civil Defense and the general public.
In comparison to historical records of seismic activity in Cuba, there is a notably superior level of effective earthquake monitoring and research, in keeping with the technological development of the SSNC station network and highly qualified staff.
In accordance with Civil Defense guidelines, many families passed the night in open spaces having brought sufficient refreshments to face an emergency of this nature in carrier bags.
Given the unpredictability of seismic activity, life returned to relative normality on the basis of decisions taken at administrative and family level on how best to confront the possibly of a more serious quake and possible human and material damages.
Even though the frequency of tremors had begun to decrease by Thursday March 19, resulting in an obviously relative tranquility, scientists have given very clear warnings about the latent danger.
One indication of the significance of earthquakes to the people of Santiago is the book Misericordia! (Mercy)written by City Historian doctor Olga Portuondo, based on both personal experiences and exhaustive research involving archives from as far away as Spain itself.
This is the plea for help that many Cubans issued in the face of extreme weather events and especially the fear evoked by underground tremors, to which the south eastern strip of Cuba is exposed because of the location of the Eastern Fault of the tectonic plates found on the border between North America and the Caribbean.
In the prologue, the renowned seismologist doctor, Tomás J. Chuy, recommends the book to those who both do and do not identify with the content, because the pages reveal an aspect of Cuban history and recognize the efforts made to reduce the seismic vulnerability of Santiago de Cuba.
Indeed, in a re-release of the volume, the National Social Sciences Prize winner will have to include a chapter on these early 2016 events, during which “Santiagueros” felt close to catastrophe and were put to test once again by mother nature.
Respect for the stoicism of her fellow Santiago towns-people flows throughout the pages, and explains the dedication: To the eternal Santiago people, for 500 years of permanent resistance in the same place.
In the first chapter, “Quake Fear”, the author recalls the moment in 1947 at just three years of age in her old timber home in the Sueña district when she first felt the earth beneath her shake and first heard the characteristic cry for “Mercy”Share on FB Share on TT