The world’s rollercoaster ride through tumultuous upheavals in economy and finance, international security and politics has largely bypassed the mountainous fortress of Tibet. But a quake reminds us why the alpine nation shouldn’t be so easily forgotten.
Hours into the early September 18, 2011 morning after I boarded my flight from Kunming, Yunnan province’s biggest city in southwest China, the earth started to rumble. A magnitude 6.9 earthquake was about to strike the northeastern Indian state of Sikkim, with tremors rippling across neighbouring Nepal, Tibet and Bangladesh. My flight from Kunming was a conclusion to a week-long vacation to the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR). It was delayed for three hours and no clear explanation was offered by the airline. I only knew what happened after arriving back in Singapore and receiving text messages from friends asking if I was safe and saying an earthquake had occurred around the Himalayan region near the time of my departure.
My initial sense of relief from the close shave was soon overtaken by worry.