Last week I was in Christchurch just before Tuesday’s big quake, then shortly afterwards. Coming back through Christchurch on Friday afternoon, I stayed at my sister Carey’s place in Riccarton. The house and its services (electricity, water, sewage) had not been affected by the earthquake, though of course its occupants had had a frightening day – especially Carey, who had been at work not far from the epicentre when the earthquake struck. She had harrowing tales of the quake and its aftermath.
We were still watching non-stop television quake coverage on Friday afternoon and in the photo below, everyone is glued to the screen: my nephew Matt, his wife Karla and Carey’s animals, Jack the Maine Coon kitten and Molly the Dalmation dog.
On Wednesday, Carey had broadcast the following email about the big day:
“We are all OK. Chris flew out to work in New Plymouth for a month yesterday at 6.30am…so missed the action AGAIN but I know he feels really awful not being here. But there is nothing he could do, so he is better off taking this job. This quake felt so much worse than September’s, being so shallow and right under us. It feels like ages while you are waiting to hear if everyone is safe. Last time at least we were together, not spread out all over town. So many people have lost loved ones and as Harriet said, it’s going to be awful when we eventually see who has died, we are bound to know someone.
“Harriet was on the 4th floor of the university library building (very unusual for her to be in any library!) I think she found that pretty wild, but got home unscathed and started cleaning up piles of jam that had fallen out of pantry onto tiled floor – everything is still sticky.
“Annabelle was in the pool teaching seven-year olds. She got all but one out and was holding the last one up to get her out when the tidal wave hit and slammed her against the end of the pool. Kid got out OK but Annabelle very shaken, with impressive bruising on both hips. The water washed to one end in the pool then came back very fast in a large tidal wave, washing all the water out of the pool. Loos do the same, by the way!!!
“I was in my office at school. Luckily it was lunchtime and most of the kids were outside because we are in St Martins, which is just on the other side of hills from Lyttelton, so right in the middle of it, no major injuries with the kids, few teachers with cuts etc. I have very bruised lower back where my filing cabinet landed on me as I was trying to stand up, but nothing that won’t heal. Our school is only a few years old so it looks quite good.
“Initially the kids were great (we have 480 students between three and 18) but then in the big after-shock a huge two-story house behind our school just collapsed and slid down the hill. That was really distressing for everyone, and we all saw or heard it. By 4.30 most of the kids had been collected, three families had set up tents as their houses were gone and we had six teachers unable to get home & eight children not collected. Five of their parents’ knew they were there and safe, but couldn’t get them. Three six and seven year olds we had not been able to contact parents……they still haven’t been able to this morning either, so the children all stayed at the school in the new kindergarten building.
“I said I would take a boy to St Albans (opposite side of town). Took me over an hour to navigate my way home (usually 15 minutes – bridges out and it was four wheel drive situation on the roads). Had to leave my car at home as the petrol light was on and took Annabelle’s car to drop boy home, that was another 75 minutes for a 10 minute drive. we were driving through water (or poo) over the lower doors and very frightening as water was just flowing around us and roads were just caving in.
“When I got home Ruth and Cam (my cousin’s daughter and partner) were at our place as they had no water or power. This morning Adrian (our boarder) and Peter and Michael Greer have all gone to Ruth’s house in four wheel drive with barrows and shovels to clear their section that is covered everywhere in liquefaction. Luckily not inside, but they do have cracks in house. All that food and swimming training does come in handy eventually.
“I guess its going to be a lot longer before we get back to normal. We are so lucky, our house, although very near the CBD, has come through both shakes well, things broken, but nothing compared to many people and we have power most of the time & water, not that we can drink it.
“But as my brother Neil from Canada said, ‘this is becoming ridiculous.’ It is going to be much harder for Christchurch to pick ourselves up this time.”
On Saturday morning I sent the following email to my own family:
“Reading my iPad in bed this morning at Carey’s place, I have been joined by Jack, her latest Maine Coon kitten and Molly, the Dalmation. The kitten is leaping around, having a great time. However, Molly is leaning hard against me. She’s been quivering at a great rate for the last 15 minutes, since we had an aftershock. She leaped up on the bed as soon as the quake started and it was hard to tell when the actual quake ended, with all her shaking.
“Update: she’s just stopped quivering, but is still pressed hard against me. If she’s been reacting like this for each of the thousands of aftershocks since last September, it’s not nice at all.
“Update2: Carey tells me Molly’s done the quiver thing at least 1000 times and lost a lot of weight through it. She was just coming right before the latest big shock.
“I’ve felt four aftershocks since I arrived here late yesterday. None of them particularly strong. For a quake-hardened Wellingtonian like me, that is. Molly has other ideas.”
I was in the Christchurch CBD, including the now-seriously damaged Cathedral, two days before the quake, with two American friends I was travelling with. Needless to say, we were shaken by news of the quake, and shared a few ‘what ifs’.
Though I spent time in Christchurch just after the quake, I was in the western side of the city and saw no sign whatever of anything untoward. No visible damage and people going about their business in cars and by foot as though nothing had happened. Just a few kilometres to the east it was a very different story.