Friday, 5 July 2013

When your garden comes alive

I recently moved into a new house in bugolobi Kampala specifically selected for its garden and the potential to create my own little Eden. Over the last couple of months myself and my very hardworking gardener “Jeffrey “have been painstakingly clearing a very overgrown garden to reconstruct my vision of the perfect patch to have a relaxing weekend after a hard working week.
Well into our fourth week of replanting the now cleared area with a variety of Ugandan plant species guaranteed to provide our little haven down the line, I regularly found myself on the deck at night with the dogs inspecting the progress in the rays of the floodlights, that were now also in place to provide just the right kind of lighting to feature the oasis we were creating.   

On this particular evening the dogs started to run around and bark at me, scout my trusty German Sheppard and protected tugged at me, and in an instance I noticed what seemed like all the birds in Kampala emerging from our large well established fig trees.
Peering through the garden, while birds flew past the flood lights creating shadows and eerie sounds it looked as if the plants and trees started to vibrate or move. I had this sinking feeling that a heavy construction vehicle was moving through my garden and destroying everything in its path. I just couldn’t see it.  

No, this wasn’t the result of some well grown weed or hallucinate drug but it definitely caught me off guard. As I ran into the house I noticed everything was shaking, fridges, standing fans and crockery started to vibrate. We moved outside and were joined by the staff that were definitely not as concerned as I was.
I later realised they knew this all too well; when they casually informed me not to worry as it’s just another earthquake. Having never actually experienced an earthquake before, I can remember thinking that they definitely didn’t include this one in the guide books. One more reason to visit Uganda I thought to myself – “Come visit Uganda and survive your first moderate earthquake”

After some web searching we now know where it started and educated ourselves on Uganda’s tremors

The facts:  The earthquake was a  M 5.7 Earthquake, that occurred 51km W of Kigorobya, Uganda. We were informed to expect aftershocks (Even though I must add that we only heard about this after we experienced the actual aftershocks). These secondary shockwaves are usually less violent than the main quake but can be strong enough to do additional damage to weakened structures and can occur in the first hours, days, weeks, or even months after the quake.
Three moderate earthquakes shook Uganda's Albertine region this week, causing little damage but raising concern about the quake-prone country's preparedness in the event of major seismic activity.

According to Uganda’s Department of Geological Survey and Mines, in the Ministry of Energy and Minerals, the first of the three quakes - with a magnitude of 5.2 - occurred on the afternoon of 2 July, while a second, measuring 5.4, occurred late in the evening on 3 July. A third, measuring 5.7 and described by seismologists as "dangerous", took place at 01:22 am on 4 July.

The tremors were felt mainly in Kampala, Hoima and Kagadi in Midwestern Uganda and in Bunia in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre and

"This is an area of seismic activity. The occurrence was due to weakness of the earth faults, which resulted to faulting," Fred Tugume, the principal geophysicist in the Department of Geological Survey and Mines, told IRIN. Faulting is a sudden lateral or vertical movement of rock along the earth's surface.

Environmentalists have expressed concern about the possible environmental impact of on-going oil drilling around Lake Albert, the epicentre of the earthquake. However, Ugandan authorities insist the earthquakes and the oil activities are unrelated. Oil companies exploring in the area say oil can be safely extracted with minimal harm to the environment.
"Earthquakes have been there. We live with them. However, this repeated occurrence is worrying. We are going to analyse the phenomena and see why," Tugume added.

We experienced a couple of tremors since, and we now too are used to a little giggle and jive as part of Kampala nightlife. I have since decided that it’s a part of Uganda and actually find it interesting that I survived my first, be it a moderate earthquake. My bucket list didn’t actually include an earthquake but has since been updated and now reflect 11 must do things before I die, its cheating but I couldn’t resist.
For those of you wondering, I lost a tree in my little piece of Eden in the process but that garden has actually been enhanced by this. I now have a nice sunny spot to grow vegetables that’s not visible from my porch leaving my vision intact.

Story by C.T Schalkwyk , Premier Safaris Uganda