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Wednesday , September 21 , 2011
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‘This is a wake-up call for all of us’

Amitabh Rai, 40, stays on the 35th floor of Tower 3 in South City, the highest residential floor in town. He was the GM of Oberoi Grand till he opened his restaurant, Sarson, in South City Mall in 2010. He shares his experience of shaker Sunday with Metro.

Just 10 minutes before the earthquake, I had stepped out to the balcony to have a smoke and then I came back in to work on my laptop. I was checking my emails and sitting at a table and chair when I felt a vibration. At first, I thought the chair had become wobbly... when suddenly I got another jolt — a swaying kind of a feeling. That’s when I realised that it’s an earthquake and what I had felt was a tremor.

The surprising thing is that these tremors didn’t stop. The first was followed by a second and then came the swaying. From what I understand, these tall skyscrapers are built to sustain these earthquakes by swaying. So, I wasn’t too worried. But I did know that I had to get out.

Having worked 20 years in the hotel industry, I knew that I must not take the elevator, so I took the stairs down 35 floors. As I started climbing down — something I haven’t done in a long time! — I heard the voices of neighbours and I was already on the ground floor when the evacuation formally began. We were out for around 40-45 minutes until we were told it was safe to go back in.

When I look back to when I moved to this high-rise in December 2009, I opted for the 35th floor because the view is breathtaking. On one side, there’s the Royal’s golf course and on the other, I can see all the way to Oberoi Grand and Vidyasagar Setu.

No, I don’t have any second thoughts about staying on the 35th floor, though I must say a lot of well-wishers have told me I must stay on a lower floor.

It was reassuring to see how the evacuation was done and broadcast on the public address system. It was all pretty well-organised.

Do I feel the building committee should send precautionary guidelines for the future?

Well, I don’t think anybody expected this in Calcutta… we don’t really fall in a high-risk zone. But yes, when we can highlight things like fire-escape steps, why not about earthquakes? This is a wake-up call. And for all buildings. Tremors could happen anytime and we shouldn’t be caught unawares, caution points should be displayed — about things like not taking an elevator.

(As told to Karo Christine Kumar)

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