Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Christchurch five weeks on

So what's it like living in Christchurch these days?
Well sort of normal and sort of not.
We are still boiling the water so each day we still check how much water we have boiled and if we need to boil more. We still have the glass of boiled water for brushing teeth and use some in a bowl to wash salad vegetables from the garden.
Karl is in his second week back onsite at work. So routines are much more normal. Lucy had started at her temporary school location but then got chicken pox so is back home again. The current site for her school is just for this term, so next term her school will move again.
I had total sympathy for the business owners desperate to get into the inner city for things from their businesses after four weeks. It is such a long time to not be able to operate and while commercial insurance may cover some things, it doesn't cover losing customers to other companies because you have been unable to operate for a whole month. However, after talking to an engineer who has been working in the city since Feb 22nd, my opinion changed.
From the outside it is hard to see what is going on in the central city, but it has been really busy in there. Teams of USAR people and engineers have been working twelve hour days - four days on, two days off to check all buildings for safety. As areas have been checked and buildings stabilised or demolished, areas have been opened up. The cordons have shrunk a great deal in the last five weeks. Of course that means, the worst area in the middle is still cordoned off but with very good reason. The engineer I spoke to said it is an extremely dangerous place for an untrained person. Some cracks look bad but don't affect the building structurally, while other buildings may look fine but be very dangerous. Columns have been bent or broken so a concrete floor or roof maybe completely unsupported. Stairwells can be badly damaged and just hanging on by tenuous attachments. If you don't know where to walk, it has the potential to be fatal. So the poor business people have to wait, but many are now gaining limited access to get out essential items. It also stinks - five weeks of no power with places like sushi shops and fish restaurants...
I have driven passed the cordon for various reasons and even on the streets that are open, there is noone and hardly any traffic - even if your business could open, there is no one there to buy.
I dropped off an order from our webshop the other day and was met with many eyes from a bedroom and a lounge full of people working at desks, relocated from their usual workplace.
There are many temporary measures that we are all doing for today and tomorrow. At some stage I guess more permanent plans will have to be made.
The aftershocks have dropped off significantly we are only getting them sporadically, a couple a week. It is now not unusual to have quake free days. The kids still need reassurance with any unexpected noise or rattle - a big truck or bus passing or the wind rattling something.
The roads on this side of town are fine but we all still weave around bumps and dips. More holes have been repaired in our road and then heavy rain gets in to damaged parts and small ones open up.
We have had the rapid assessment by EQC of house last week and have been placed in the 4-6 month minor structural damage grouping. I still need to ring our own insurance about the driveway damage.
I did the first proper supermarket shop last week - not just for essentials. I haven't yet gone to a mall, but I wasn't a great mall shopper anyway and just now I don't really want to go in one. I have been caught out by trying to shop places that are still shut, even in areas I thought would be okay but the shop I wanted to go to was not okay.
It is hard to believe five weeks has passed and yet many are still living elsewhere, waiting to come back until next term. How will they feel coming back? Will they remember the sewerage is still far from fixed, even it appears that way at their house? How will the city cope with the increase in usage of power and water?
So it is sort of normal but not at all as it was on February 21st.

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5 Favourite Sights Seen

  • 1996 Watching tropical lightning turn night to day, outside a little wooden church in a small village in Sabah.
  • 2004 Flying down the Rainbow Valley at 8000ft in a cessna on a clear blue day.
  • 2003 Seeing and hearing Michael Schmacher rolling out of the pit garage in his Ferrari in Hungary.
  • 2009 Chancing upon 100 or more dolphins just off the Kaikoura Coast swimming around, jumping out of the water, doing somersaults and generally having fun.
  • 2006 Finding a pool at the bottom of a waterfall in the bush at Kaikoura that was full of playing baby seals.