Bulgaria's 'Miracle' Earthquake
Bulgaria made headlines across the globe Tuesday after a 5.9-6.0 on the Richter scale earthquake hit overnight, prompting massive jolts in the western regions and sending panicked people on the streets.
After nature and psychological shocks subsided, the country saw daylight with the most amazing recap, making even more headlines – no causalities (except one heart attack), no serious injuries and no severe damage in road infrastructure, buildings, dam walls, and power plants; no interruptions in phone services (both cell and landlines), in the emergency hotline, in TV and radio broadcasts; with trains and public transportation running on time and on schedule.
Just over the weekend an earthquake with similar magnitude, not so far away from here (Italy), took 8 lives, injured over 50 and caused severe damage of many buildings, including historical sites.
The Ministry of Regional Development and Public Works reported in a statement that the shocks were lighter than what the buildings in Sofia and the rest of the country could sustain. Undeniably, many buildings were constructed well and network technology proved up to the challenge, but the aftermath still seems quite incredible...
People in Bulgaria are so used to face disasters helpless and on their own with institutions suffering chronic shortage of funds, of coordination and of competency that they could hardly grasp the positive side of the news. We have a hard time imagining that something, just one thing, can function properly.
Instead of dam waters, jokes are flooding forums and social networks. There is much talk about miracles or Bulgarians being God's favorites, depending on the view point. Even Prime Minister Borisov said that we should "thank The Lord..."
Beyond the "twilight zone" and God, as the Regional Ministry reminded, proper earthquake resistance can only be guaranteed for legally built buildings and Bulgaria adopted tighter construction standards in earthquake prone regions in 1987.
What about the illegal buildings that abound all over the country, the new construction known for cutting on materials and safety in the quest for the cheap, and the older buildings erected prior to 1987?
What about the majority of Bulgarian media failing miserably to inform the panicked, continuing to broadcast without a glitch TV series, commercials, and reality shows in the wee hours Tuesday? The informational blackout forced people to organize self-help groups in social networks, while others, in regions where the tremors were not felt, were stunned to learn the news from worried relatives abroad...
Instead of thanking, singing praises, bragging, feeling overly confident and falsely safe, Bulgaria needs to take a deeper look and thoroughly assess how exactly it escaped utter disaster and what we have do from now on. We need a plan and a strategy. Miracles happen once in a lifetime and God only helps those who help themselves.