Calm and pa­tience will be re­mem­bered

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - THE DAY THE EARTH SHOOK - by Michael DeFroand

Our re­porter re­flects on a day which brought out the best in the com­mu­nity

IT was a strange and fright­en­ing event, yet the peo­ple of Folkestone showed re­mark­able for­ti­tude and pa­tience in deal­ing with the af­ter­math of the earth­quake.

The sight that greeted me on my early morn­ing ar­rival at the Black Bull pub was one of fire­fight­ers hard at work in­spect­ing houses, a smat­ter­ing of po­lice and the rest of the coun­try’s ex­cited me­dia.

For some rea­son the car park of the pub quickly be­came the fo­cal point for hastily ar­ranged press con­fer­ences, when se­nior fire ser­vice of­fi­cials of­fered re­as­sur­ance that ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble was be­ing done to make the area safe, but warned care still needed to be taken.

As re­porters, TV and ra­dio crews and pho­tog­ra­phers darted from street to street, and fire­fight­ers cor­doned off houses thought to be un­sta­ble, the peo­ple of Can­ter­bury Road, Black Bull Road and oth­ers were phleg­matic.

Al­tru­ism

Many had fright­en­ing sto­ries to re­count and were only too happy to help the press try to es­tab­lish what had hap­pened.

The Sal­va­tion Army cen­tre in Can­ter­bury Road was a scene of al­tru­ism and pa­tience as vol­un­teers and evac­uees worked to­gether to make the day as pain­less as pos­si­ble.

Calm­ness, some­times mixed with be­wil­der­ment, was ev­i­dent through­out the area.

I was work­ing in the Ken­tish Ex­press of­fice in Ash­ford when I felt the tremor.

What had hap­pened was soon con­firmed by the seem­ingly end­less phonecalls that im­me­di­ately came into the of­fice from far and wide.

Within half an hour I was on my way to Hythe and Folkestone.

As the day wore on the re­al­i­sa­tion be­gan to spread that East Kent had ex­pe­ri­enced a truly sig­nif­i­cant phe­nom­e­non – one so un­usual for this coun­try – but had es­caped tragedy.

With only one per­son re­ported in­jured, it was ob­vi­ous that the early morn­ing tremor had hap­pened at a time when thank­fully few peo­ple were out and about to be hit by fly­ing de­bris.

In Hythe High Street, a power cut and be­muse­ment com­bined to make it quiet and calm.

Most shops were shut; some opened doors to dark­ened in­te­ri­ors as shop­pers and shop­keep­ers swapped sto­ries of the tremor.

Tire­less

But it was in Folkestone that the main dam­age could be seen.

There were ru­mours of an im­pend­ing sec­ond shock, but Satur­day night passed un­event­fully. Sun­day morn­ing brought quiet res­ig­na­tion and nor­mal­ity as traf­fic moved through roads pre­vi­ously sealed off.

This was a ma­jor event for East Kent, one to ri­val the 1987 hur­ri­cane, but the knowl­edge that there had been so few in­juries was a com­fort.

A well-or­gan­ised re­sponse – from the emer­gency ser­vices and from peo­ple in the town – means that Satur­day, April 28, 2007 will be re­mem­bered for an amaz­ing nat­u­ral phe­nom­e­non and the hard-work­ing re­sponse of tire­less vol­un­teers.

Re­porter Michael DeFroand with evac­uee Jen­nifer Jor­dan at the Sal­va­tion Army cen­tre in Can­ter­bury Road, Folkestone

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