In good ol' Oz, thankfully, earthquakes are very rare. Meckering WA ,1968, 6.9 on the Richter scale, and Newcastle NSW, 1989, registering 5.6 ... and those are about all the ones I can think of. At least, the ones that were pretty destructive. And it's worth noting that they have gone down in history as "earthquakes", and not mere "tremors".
I mean, I remember a few tremors when I was living in Melbourne as a kid. The glasses would tinkle on the shelf. The windows would vibrate a bit. And that was about it. If you weren't paying attention, tremors were easy to miss. And here in Peru there is a similar terminology: tremors are known as "temblores", and earthquakes are known as "terremotos".
Now, in the last 24 hours here in Arequipa, we've had a few, shall we say, seismic events. The whole building has visibly shaken from side to side (while you're in it). You'd think a truck had just ploughed into the house. Car alarms go off and the dogs start going berko. People empty into the street.
Then you check the seismic data online, and yep the epicentre was only about 50kms away. At a depth of 10km, and at 5.5 on the Richter scale. And in Australia this would have done a lot of destruction in any nearby town or city. It would have gone down in the history books for sure -- as an "earthquake" (image courtesy of earthquaketrack.com):
So how do the locals of Arequipa describe a seismic bit of biffo like this? Is it a "temblore" or a "terremoto"? Well guess what, it all depends what you're used to, and how well built your buildings are. Here in Peru, seismic hiccups and burps are a dime a dozen. And every building worth its salt (and there are a few that aren't, especially in the poorer districts) is built from reinforced concrete, with walls at least a foot thick.
So after what seems like a good seismic clobbering to us Australians, which would have probably flattened a town in Oz, the locals are all talking about... those "temblores" we just had!
Now it's not that Peruvians are blase about seismic biffo -- far from it. Preparation for earthquakes is promoted constantly.
And so most people have emergency kits ready to go (water, food, blankets, cash, first aid equipment, torches, etc.). Everyone remembers well the day the old cathedral towers in the Plaza de Armas came tumbling down. Many died, and thousands were left homeless. Government emergency vehicles carry equipment you would never see in Austalia: rigid stretchers, shovels, and the rest.
Below: the moment the cathedral towers came down, Arequipa 2001. Actually only the one on the left fully collapsed; the one on the right somehow remained balanced in position. Notice the pigeons going nuts, but people rooted to the spot. (Photo sourced from Pinterest.)
Anyway, we Fischers have decided we'd better follow SIM Peru's protocols and get serious about our emergency kit... somehow we've overlooked that in all the other rumpus of settling in!