Monday, April 18, 2011

Emotions and aftershocks

It has been a strange week.
I learnt more about another layer of this natural disaster this week - the emotional and psychological layer. Many people are just getting on, doing the best they can to do normality under the circumstances, but for others it is not just that easy. Some are very emotionally on edge or turning to things like excessive alcohol to get through. These are not just some random people over the other side of town but friends and family of people I see regularly. This is very real and very draining especially when those doing the supporting have also gone through this whole event too.
I have now washed all my non urgent washing - even non urgent washing becomes urgent when you start running out of towels and sheets. I added a little every wash and it is finally all done.
The breaking of a major sewerage pipe in Ferry Road this week, called for people to be more careful with using water and sewerage systems. They are now saying to not use dishwashers, no matter what part of the city you live in. Obviously noone can tell what you do in your own home and I am sure many people in the less affected suburbs in the west are carrying on as pre quake but we have stopped using the dishwasher. I can't do much to help those in other suburbs but I can do that. We were so good at being community minded in the initial few weeks - it is the long haul of caring for each other in little unselfish ways that is a lot more difficult.
5:49pm Saturday night reminded us why it was important. In our western suburb, we didn't lose power or get any liquefaction to deal with. The kids did dive under the table. This time Lucy was more badly affected than Tristan and was shaking afterwards. Tristan was caught up in believing his duvet house would shelter him from anything the earth cared to do.
Karl went for the laptop wobbling atop the television. I stood where I was undecided whether to grab the pile of trays and pans I had just taken out of the oven and put on the bench in a higgledy, piggledy pile. They slid but didn't fall. Above me the fly sprayer thing fell over but backwards not forwards so didn't fall on me. Then it all stopped and we got on with what we had been doing, with half an eye on the internet to see the magnitude - that one was worth checking out.
Lucy went to her room and came back holding her little canvas painting. This little painting balances on the lip above the wardrobe, against the wall and is the kids gauge of aftershock size. When they get scared, I ask; "Did the painting fall down." They check and if it is still up we agree the aftershock, was not worth being afraid of. She came back from her room holding it and smiling - even the painting had fallen down.
We knew it had been a sizable one and afterwards we kept getting little ones. Sunday morning we had a jolt wake up and Sunday night another noisy one rumbled towards our house, thwacked it and then seemed to rumble off into the distance. The blokes slept through that one but Lucy called out in the dark. Every aftershock is different and now we get them from all sorts of directions.
Do you remember the Boxing Day aftershock being in the news? People ran from Boxing Day sales and some buildings in town were damaged badly because it was centred very close to the city. After Saturday that aftershock, is no longer in the top 25 for magnitude. It doesn't feel quite real that we have felt so many.
I also went to a mall for the first time this week. These days the thoughts that ran through my head as I got there was I would park on the street. I didn't want my car stuck in a carpark building should another aftershock hit. Then when I couldn't find a park(everyone else having the same idea), I decided perhaps parking it in the carpark building might be a good plan, the car had been playing up a bit. I worked out even if I had to walk I would be able to get to the kids from there. Of course my logical brain was also suggesting, nothing would happen and nothing did. I thought how funny it was all those thoughts running through my mind and then Saturday night's 5.3 aftershock, makes the thoughts seem not quite so stupid.
The aftershocks are supposed to ease off within the year. I have asked Tristan if he remembers what it was like living before earthquakes and aftershocks and he says yes but he doesn't want the ground to be "rolly polly" on his birthday. They seem to come in clusters these days so he might be lucky.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The long tail of natural disasters

The wonderful news at the end of last week was that we no longer have to boil the water. I didn't think much of this announcement, as I thought we had a pretty good routine but it is much more normal just brushing your teeth from the tap and using the big stock pot for cooking, rather than just in the constant rotation of boiling or storing boiled water.
Every day since September I am very thankful we live in a first world country. There is always improvements going on with infrastructure. Roads that I drive on regularly, keep improving as they are repaired or at least remediated to a point, that makes them less of a slalom course and less likely to be further damaged. While not everyone may be happy with solutions that are happening, there are constant solutions being provided. We are so lucky to live in this country.
But it does take a long time. Media move on to new disasters around the world and the people here keep on dealing with stuff - day in, day out.
The more severely damaged Eastern suburbs keep getting the harsh end of the situation. They have to deal with the severely, damaged sewerage system and less robust, repaired power network. But the sewerage treatment works are in the East - all our sewerage, whether in the system or overflowing into rivers has to go east and encounter the more damaged areas. I still keep being surprised by events or even Lucy's school being much nearer to me. But I am in the west - everything is coming to the west, to avoid the damage. Great if you live west - difficult if you don't.
On Sunday afternoon I walked past people emptying a covered trailer into new premises. Lawyers offices have popped up all over the place in suburban areas. The new Christchurch continues to emerge.
We can get into more of our inner city now but not the heavily damaged "red zone". We have to wait for October for that. It seems so far away but that is the long tail of these things.
The aftershocks we are having, quite intermittently now, are pretty small. Most seem to be more noise than shake. I had thought after September I would never worry about an earthquake again. But now, even these tiny ones cause a bit of back straightening. We are very aware of the movements in our surroundings - we don't duck for cover or even check how big it was, anymore but it seems like our bodies note it and are ready, if required to react. I find myself getting very irritated if someone is doing something that repeatedly makes a bang or thump. I get annoyed at my body overreacting even though I know what it is.
It is sad watching more and more buildings being demolished. When I put together this historic walk in July last year, I had no idea that the Carlton Hotel, where it starts would have to be demolished less than a year later. They are only buildings but there are many stories that went with them.
I hope the new buildings that end up being built are interesting and unique enough to generate their own stories.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Quirks of the Quake

My uncle said that he remeasured his house position using his GPS unit in late February after all the quakes and relative to the satellites his place had moved thirteen metres.
It seemed a bit far fetched but we also have a GPS unit and knew where we had measured our house location. We checked it again and it reckoned our place had moved nine metres. We tried it over several days and we definitely had a new location always eight - nine metres from what it used to be. Our old position is now in our neighbour's house.
Someone on Friday night described how living in Christchurch now resembles a board game. Some of us suffer hardly at all with each roll of the dice and others have lost their house and now are finding out they have lost their jobs and it all seems quite random. Some struggle to get any kind of assistance while others get phoned and pressured into taking help they don't think they need.
It is all so complicated. The other week a lady mentioned that now another grief was happening; bureaucracy betrayal, for those that are being let down by not being able to successfully negotiate the system.
I experienced the most unusual phone call I have ever had with an insurance person. It was our commercial insurance - who haven't returned calls for five weeks. Then suddenly I got a call from someone in America. It seemed they wanted to help and did everything they could to make sure we got some help.
Everyone I've talked to here, mentions how unusually tired they are. I think it is just the constant stream of new information we need to assimilate - new routes to work, shops we can't use, new routines we need to do and an underlying tension of uncertainty about further shocks.
Then there is the future, the rebuild of the city and what will happen to suburbs not rebuilt and where will the homes go?
It doesn't take the community spirit long to dissipate - with comments of; "not near me", "the land here is much more valuable than the land was in the east" and "it is unfair to move people to new areas". We have a long road ahead and I hope the uglier side of humanity doesn't come to the fore in the tiredness and the tension.

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.