I honestly didn’t think I’d be writing about a major quake so soon after the 7.1 earthquake that hit Christchurch not even six months ago. But I am and the whole thing scares me.
You see I comprehend a large earthquake and since last September 4 of last year understand the concept of aftershocks, even if they number into the thousands. But a quake that is a hundred times more devastating happening so soon is something I’m struggling to come to terms with. This isn’t meant to happen. The aftershocks from the 7.1 should die away over time and leave us in peace, giving us space to rebuild and move on. It’s not fair to kick a man when he’s down but the city of Christchurch has been dealt an unfair blow that has us all reeling.
I’m no geophysicist (even if my magnitude-guessing skills have improved over the last six months) so I’m not going to go into any detail on the network of interconnected faults that lie beneath this city but from a human perspective the whole thing defies comprehension and has left a lot of us nervous about what’s ahead – will this quake trigger another fault a bit further along, perhaps one out to sea thus creating a tsunami risk or will it appear directly under the city, wreaking even more havoc on our beaten city and frayed nerves? It seems not even the experts can offer any certainty and so we continue on, never able to fully relax or even mention earthquakes for fear it will wake the beast. We do our best to press on but we can never shake the nagging feeling our lives might once again be turned upside down on some idle Tuesday afternoon in the not-too-distant future.
Tuesday 12.51pm – My experience
One thing about earthquakes is that they don’t call before they arrive, they just rudely barge in the front door unannounced. Mr 6.3 did just that – boom – it started violently shaking the house. What the…?! I thought it was a joke. An aftershock gone wrong, or one planted directly under our house. But the way the house was shaking I didn’t waste any time, diving straight under our sturdy dining room table. I would’ve been in the office but had opted to work from home that day – a wise move in hindsight. For the next 15 seconds, I huddled under the table watching cans and jars spilling out of the pantry and bar stools toppling over, thinking to myself ‘whoa this is serious -we had nothing fall over in the 7.1 so I hate to think how the rest of the city is faring’. After it finished I texted my wife, who was fortunately working at her QE2 office nearby, not her usual 6th floor in the Christchurch CBD, the location of so many collapsed buildings. I ventured out from under the table and wandered around in a daze – this just didn’t seem real – picking my way through the mess I was in spin of disbelief and denial. I made an attempt to tweet out but power had gone, which meant no internet. It just seemed too mad to be real. After making sure the dogs were ok I ventured outside. Neighbours were coming out on to the street, also a little dazed. Our next-door neighbour was crying so I went over to her, then checked on a few others. In my head I found myself just saying whoa over and over again.
I went back home and starting taking photos of everything, then tidying up where I could. Before long Crystal was home which was a relief. The car was a mess; she’d done well to get through the rising liquefaction coming out of QE2 and the surrounding area.
I went on a few reconnaissance trips to check on the rest of the neighbourhood and saw destruction everywhere. I guess if there was ever a time to remodel a city, now’s good. Without power and running water life was a little restricted over the ensuing days but we coped well with solar showers, gas cooking, an artesian well and a stocked pantry. Almost a week we still don’t have any essential services restored so camp life continues but fortunately I have been able to get into the office, which is a welcome oasis in this disaster zone.
Welfare centres, water supply and food distribution points began to appear and tended to the needy, in many cases those struggling to get by without an earthquake to compound their plight. Army engineers even setup a desalination water facility near the New Brighton pier – they say the water is safe to drink but it tastes absolutely terrible and that’s tough for Christchurch citizens who are proud of their ‘better-than-bottled’ water supply.
As news of what had happened in the central city started to filter through the realisation of what had actually taken place started to hit home. Talk of multiple fatalities left us feeling both numb and sickened, and in some ways disconnected and isolated since New Brighton hadn’t suffered in the same way. But we pick up the pieces and carry on, like we did last time and Christchurch will do it again, a few more battle scars, broken hearts and sad memories to take with us but Cantabrians are a resilient bunch and life will go on.
Feel free to share your messages below, or your own earthquake story if you’d like.