Monday, July 11, 2011

Peeping over the parapets

It is still quiet here. I mean we get little shakes (magnitude 3s every day or so), but we've had nothing bigger for several weeks. [Then there was 4.3 I fortunately missed while out in the car after writing this.] Anyway, it reminds me of being a youth group kid and playing defend the fort. When we used to sit there in the quiet and wonder, if another onslaught was about to come or if the other team had given up and gone off in search of snacks. Who was going to brave and peep over the top?
The problem with the quiet, is I get on with everyday things and the size of the job ahead starts to loom. I took Tristan for a bit of digger watching last week. We stopped to watch a building being demolished on Moorhouse Ave and then every street inside the cordon, we looked down had people working - a demolition, some hard hat, high viz vest, wearers going up in a crane and a big truck driving out more debri.


The cordon around the city centre has remained unchanged for quite awhile now. I looked at what a similar area would be elsewhere. It is a rectangle shape and in Auckland, a similar size would be from Karangahape Road down Queen Street to just short of Swanson Street and the width across would be from Nelson Street to Princes Street. In Wellington the rectangle would be from the Beehive to around the Michael Fowler Centre and across from the sea to around the Victoria University stop on the cable car. I had to check both of those several times - they seem like such large areas. I was thinking it would be so devastating for those cities to have that sized rectangle of the central city out of bounds. Then I realised it is that devastating to have such a large portion of your central city out of bounds but sadly I have become so used to it in the last six months. I used to go in there everyday to take Lucy to school.
The bigger problem is, that is not all the damage. I keep coming across places I haven't been and there are more damaged houses and more bumpy streets.
AMI stadium is still shut, QEII is knackered, the muesum is shut, town hall is shut, convention centre is shut, all the cool art house movie theatres are shut, The Palms mall is still shut and Eastgate is partially open. The mall situation is probably good for our city, we were so over malled but of course the ones left are not well spaced across the city. If your local shops were those cool old two story ones with old facades, they have fallen down or been badly damaged. Other newer blocks have survived better but if the land was bad, they too have suffered.
Then there is the sewerage, power and water system damage and of course, housing damage. Roughly based on Stats New Zealand data, we are in the fortunate 100,000 or so homes in the green all good to fix, residential zone, there around 5000 in the red residential zone that already know a little of their future which leaves around 10,000 in the orange zones waiting to find out which way their land is to be viewed and about 30,000 homes in white areas that have not yet been assessed to be put into an appropriate land zone. So about 3% of Christchurch homes are in the red land areas and 7% are orange. At the end of March approximately only 1% of all Christchurch residential homes were red stickered. It seems quite small (though it has probably increased following June) on the statistics level, and amazing, considering all that has happened.
On a people level it still feels enormous. I keep thinking perhaps it isn't true, we will all wake up. Then I see a building that used to be so familiar and now with large pieces just lying on the ground. Footpaths still pushed right up like the ice on the shore of a frozen lake. I find myself shaking my head in disbelief.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Good Riddance June

Grim - is a word that is being used around this city and I think it sums up June rather well.
The smiles are becoming more forced, tempers and stress that have been kept in check for so many months, are starting to flare.
It's cold, it's been grey and then of course we had the big shakes of June 13th and the rumbly unexpected night of June 21st. This round there was no time afterwards to recover - life just went on as before. Lucy was off for a couple of days following June 13th while the school was checked but everything else continued as normal. So we keep trying to live normal lives while coping on less sleep and the ups and downs of the adrenaline rushes from those larger aftershocks.
This past week I have just been so tired and that makes everything seem much worse. At least the week before with the kids we were able to do baking for the volunteer liquefaction movers and you felt you were helping and that felt good. Last Monday I slept badly and didn't even know it was because of some middle sized aftershocks through the night. They were enough to disturb my sleep but not enough for me to wake their shaking. But we all keep struggling on. Little aftershocks are now completely ignored - in a hope they will go away, if not even acknowledged.
At school the other day, a little girl was talking about the volcano ash and got confused whether the volcano was in Christchurch or Chile. All the adults present - chuckled but not because a volcano Christchurch was a crazy thought but because we all turned to each other and said, "I hope not!" The earth's ability to do anything is now a possibility we consider.
In the weekend we found some bricks that you can push backwards and forwards against the house. The mortar has cracked right through across one level. Luckily a bit of wood panelling above the door is keeping them in their place. Sometimes with all the little broken bits in our house. I want to give up and issue an ultimatum to the earth. "If you do a big shake again, that's it! We are leaving!"
But the earth doesn't care and I know it is not true.
If another large aftershock comes we will do what we did in June. Text each other and check we are okay. Gather the kids, if they are not with us. Go home. Check what amenities we have this time and be extremely thankful if by good fortune we retain power and water. Then get on with life as best we can.
And when it gets too much, you can't help but stop and think how lucky we are. We are in the green residential zone. We don't have liquefaction issues. We are in New Zealand, where the government is prepared to help. We still have much compared to many even in New Zealand and definitely compared to many across the world.
A good few nights of decent sleep helps too. We haven't had any major aftershocks for awhile now. We are going days without feeling anything. The aftershocks diminished to a low level much quicker after February than September and after June, they became small even faster.
In my head there are two thoughts that keep going around. One says - it is too quiet now, the earth is building up pressure, another larger one is coming. The other is - June was the finale and that is it - no more big shaking. It could be either so we plod on, not planning too far into the future, getting through the days and waiting to see what the earth will do.

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.