Thursday, September 16, 2010

What lasting memories will I have of the quake

Things that have stuck in my head since the Saturday big earthquake:

There must have still been some power at the time of the quake because I can remember looking down the hallway, while kneeling in the doorframe, holding a shivering Tristan. The whole house bucking and rolling and the pictures on the wall banging. The noise of the quake, the banging of the wardrobe doors and windows and the creaking of the house.

The silence following it when everything stopped and the power was gone.

The starry, starry sky looking so calm and beautiful, when everything around us had gone weird.

The strange, grey silty volcanoes that appeared down the road.

The contrast of things being completely normal in parts of Christchurch and buildings completely wrecked in others. All the fences and cranes, busy fixing buildings and making them safe.

The friendliness of everybody looking out for one another.

The constant aftershocks in the night, that stopped us sleeping properly for over a week.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A week on from the quake

A week ago we were hit by the 7.1 earthquake. It is hard to believe. The week seems to have lasted forever. My new frequented websites are geonet and a googlemap of the aftershock locations.
Last Saturday, it was all about getting through the day, surviving aftershocks and being glad from lack of damage. Yesterday the fatigue really hit hard. A week of sleeping badly and it was catching up with me. We had some drinks in the evening, didn't need many, which made things seem a bit more normal. And we went to bed early, hoping not be woken up this time by another aftershock. But no around 5 we were awake again. At least it was a smaller one and a lot further on in the night.
Today feels better with more sleep but now the earthquake and its associated issues, are added to the background of life.
The ongoing effects that need to dealt with or just lived through are now part of our future. Thoughts of how things would go in September before Saturday are now having to be rethought.
What is strange, is having lived on the edge of my nerves all week as the aftershocks kept coming, on Friday they were less strong and I realised now they were just part of the day. I almost can't remember what it was like to not expect aftershocks every so often. They are now just part of life. Wait, feel them, check if everything is still okay, get on with life. Last Saturday with no water, no power and uncertainty on sewage you think, I'll never take these basic services for granted. A week on, I am already. I expect water from the tap and I trust the power to stay on. Some people still don't have these things, even in the same city but on our side of town, it feels mostly normal and my normal attitudes to water and power have returned too.
Next week as school and preschool begin again, will be strange. Driving into the central city for school does make me slightly nervous. Not the trip in, but the trip home goes down some of the streets that sustained heavy damage. Places we drove past everyday of the school week and now may not be there. We can't forget but we have to move on too.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


You don't appreciate the stress of aftershocks until you've experienced them. Being without power all day Saturday we only caught the end of a tv special on prime and Eric what'sisname and Barry bowtie guy were saying how they were from Hawke's Bay and Wellington so knew about earthquakes and were asking whether Christchurch people were nervous due to not being used to feeling earthquakes.
Umm no.
Sure the aftershocks were of a variety of strengths but the problem is that everytime one is a stronger magnitude, your body reacts to the memory of the big one. Adrenaline starts to flow and you are on edge once again.
Most people now don't even care about any aftershock under 4. Between 4 and 5, the conversation pauses, we wait - do we need to take cover or will it calm down? Over 5 we're moving to the doorframe and even if we don't make it, the heart is pumping and adrenaline is rushing again. We had a powerful jolt this morning that made some things fall down again. Afterwards we were shaking. Even though mentally we were okay, our bodies are really taking a hammering to the constant feeling of unease. Each big aftershock takes you back to sitting in the dark, hearing the rumbling and the banging of everything in the house.
The slightly less strong ones, there is the mmmmmmmm low rumble then shake, shake, shake and it passes on. Maybe 10, maybe 5 minutes or maybe an hour later mmmmmm shake, shake, shake again. And so the days go on.
Now on the fourth day, there are not so many little ones happening all the time, which is a relief for the nerves - just every now and then, bang. This can go on for days apparently! We are so lucky to be in a country with building codes such that many people are still in their own homes. I can't imagine going through this in Haiti or Pakistan surrounded by rubble and with nothing.
One day in the next month or so hopefully life will return to a more relaxed normal.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Christchurch Earthquake

I woke up with Karl jumping out of bed, saying "it's an earthquake!" For a split second, I thought of staying in bed as the earthquakes are usually small and over in seconds but it was getting louder and more shaky. I jumped out of bed too and we grabbed the kids. I was under the door frame with Tristan who was still not properly awake. The whole house was violently heaving and there was long low hum and the noise of everything shaking about. So many thoughts go through your mind. I remembered the red cross person in form 1 saying Christchurch will have big earthquake in your lifetime. This had to be it. Then there was relief that the house was still standing and we were all okay. We stayed under the doorframe. Tristan was now shivering with the shock. It was pitch black as the power had gone off.
Then the after shocks started happening. You would hear the low hum and then it would hit, the house lurching and creaking once again. Each time we would pause and wait, get to the door frame, it was a bad one or just wait and see if it was getting worse.
Miraculously we had very little damage. Things we thought would have fallen were still in their place. We took a mattress out to the lounge with the duvets. We got a kettle on the camp stove heating up some water for a cup of tea. By now we had found the torches and lit a candle. Every aftershock we held the candle while it passed. Karl said to put the heater on as it was really cold. I hadn't even noticed. Then we went outside and it was freezing but the sky was amazing. Stars staring back at us unchanged but now we could see them. No light from the city showed a full, brilliant sky of stars and the hills were completely dark apart from sugarloaf. We checked on our neighbour and he was fine. We were glad to have heating that wasn't reliant on electricity and the lounge was getting nice and warm. In the glow of the torch light were Tristan's two big brown eyes, everytime an aftershock hit.
The text messages started coming. From outside the city they said buildings had collapsed. We replied, no they haven't it's not that bad. But we were quite wrong. We made porridge on the cob oven. We now had the internet via the iphone and realised just how bad things were. We turned the radio on in the car in the garage and began to hear what it was really like.
Daybreak was a relief but also strange as now the water had stopped and we still had no power. What to do? It felt wrong to do normal things but we tidied up, pushed things, that hadn't fallen back from the edge where they had shuffled.
Walking out to the street, you couldn't see any damage. It was surreal. Had it really happened?
We drove across the city to see if our business was okay and it too, had miraculously come through pretty much unscathed. The power was even back on there and the roads were busy and many people were walking around. Over there, you couldn't even really feel the aftershocks.
Back home, we still didn't have any power but we did have water back and you could feel the aftershocks. Everytime the kids dived under the table. Everyone else paused, waited and then carried on what they were doing. It was tough on the nerves the low hum warning of what was to come.
We were tired and the nerves were frazzled, even just down the road, chimneys had fallen and the weird light grey mud had bubbled up out of the ground forming little volcanic circles. It seemed so random who had suffered and who was fine.
Saturday night was hard, the aftershocks were still coming but we finally had power, which was a relief. The kids were too terrified to go to sleep and just after we had calmed them down, another aftershock would shake them up again. In the end we all slept in our room, waking up to the larger aftershocks.
Sunday was even stranger as we seemed to be almost normal but we had to remember to boil the water and there was still the aftershocks, which we had got almost blase to now. Quakes that, had we not experienced the big one, would have had us stopping and going - that was an earthquake! Most of them come with the low hum before them.
We went to the supermarket as it was our usual shopping day, the shelves were half empty from things having smashed and you could see juice splashes still up the stands. Some stands were still in pieces. The bread aisle was completely empty.
So we made our own bread at home.
The roads could be fine and then there would be a big bump or a slump. There were still more aftershocks on Sunday night and I woke up just after midnight, why was I awake? Then I heard the low hum and my stomach sank. You just get sick of it, the constant uncertainty. The aftershock hit and it was a larger one but it passed. Lucy came into the room and climbed into our bed, her heart pounding. That was the night sometimes you slept through them and sometimes the shocks woke you up.
Monday there was no school but Karl had work. Walking around the house, I noticed cracks we hadn't seen before, maybe the aftershocks were still causing damage. They were not that major but should we call into the earthquake commission?
Today I feel really tired, three nights of less sleep, over the feelings of being on edge every time an aftershock comes (at least they seem to have dropped off quite a bit today). We walked down to get some milk at the dairy. Walking you noticed more of the damage, the cracks, the silt that had bubbled up from the ground, engineers checking the shops. Life is now sort of normal but we still boil water and it seems things aren't going to be completely normal for awhile,

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.