Shaken up in Christchurch, New Zealand

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Steam&Ink

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Hi everyone. Was'nt sure where to post this, but I wanted to let my AW friends know that I'm OK after the 6.3 earthquake in Chcristchurch.


Thanks to those who have sent messages of support. I'm sorry that I haven't been able to reply properly - the whole city has been such a mess and we've had very little access to power and water, let alone time/ability to get on the internet.


Anyway, I thought I would share my experience for those who are interested:



So, youprobably know by now that on Tuesday 22nd February, my home town Christchurch was hit by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake. The earthquake hit at 12:51pm, and I was at home, having just fixed lunch. As I walked around the dining table, a huge jolt hit the house. If you haven’t experienced a large earthquake, imagine that someone was shaking the house from side to side, as if a giant child was shaking a wrapped gift to see what was inside.



At the first sharp jolt, I dropped my plate and dove under the dinign table. It is an old-fashioned, wooden table, and – I now know – incredibly stable. However, at the time I would have leapt to safety under a cheap Ikea side table, for all the thought I put into it...



The initial shock lasted about one minute – a relatively short amount of time in retrospect, but when you are crouched under a table, listening to the terrifying rumble of the earth and waiting for the roof to fall in, it’s an eternity. The thing about disasters is, of course, that when you’re told about them later, you know the person telling you about it survived. So it’s hard to express, without melodrama, the very real and immediate feeling of danger that you get in the moment: the increasing belief that you will shortly be dead. (Actually, I truly hope that you all will never really understand this feeling!)


There were three reasons that the earthquake in Christchurch inflicted so much damage and killed so many. Firstly, the city was hit by a sharp P wave. There are two kinds of earthquake waves: S waves and P waves. S waves are undulating ones; they’re spooky and lasting but tend to do minimal damage. P waves, on the other hand, are the sharp jolting ones – over fairly quickly but inflicting maximum damage.


The second was that it was fairly shallow – it originated just five kilometres below the surface. That meant that there was very little land between the originating point and the ground under our feet – virtually nothing to dampen the killer blow.



Thirdly, it hit during lunch hour on a work day – a time when most people in the central business district were out and about: office workers getting lunch, tourists visiting our old churches, mothers pushing strollers while they did their shopping. It was the kind of scene that Hollywood loves to throw an asteroid or a Japanese monster at – except that our natural disaster was real.


Sascha, a University lecturer, was on the fifth floor of the University Law School building – a building built one dampers and designed to sway its way through any earth movement. The University, like most of the city was evacuated. However, for several hours I had no idea what had happened to him, and he had no idea whether I was alive or dead, because the city was basically incommunicado for most of the day: Many cell phone towers were knocked out during the quake, and the flurry of calls and texts after the quake meant that the system almost immediately became unviable. (Once rescue efforts started, we were asked not to use out cell phones, so that the minimal residual network could be used to communicate with people trapped in buildings).



So it was three harrowing hours, until he got home, before I knew that Sascha was alive. In the meantime, I was sitting in the car, listening to the radio to hear anything I could about the effects of the earthquake. During that time there were several large aftershocks. Although I was happy to be out of the house, sitting in a bucking and rocking car is no cup of tea either! The radio station had very little substantial news in the immediate aftermath of the quake – it was relying on Christchurch people calling in. I can tell you, it’s pretty surreal to hear a panic-stricken radio caller say, “Oh my god – it’s another one!” as you yourself are gripping, white knuckled, on to your seat, and wondering whether this one is going to be the biggest one yet.


By the time Sasch had finally gotten home, I knew that my immediate family and close friends were safe, thanks to the sporadic text messages that got through. We relaxed a little, but it was the bliss of ignorance – with no electricity, we had no way of seeing the devastation that had swept through our city.



In fact it was only the next day, after we had navigated the ripped-up roads to Rangiora (a satellite town where my brother lives), that we realised how bad the city was. The first TV pictures we saw seemed like shots of a war zone. Churches were ripped down. Large office buildings had crumbled, trapping workers in their rubble. Multi level parking buildings had collapsed, sandwiching cars and people. Hills had slid and crumbled, throwing van-sized boulders though houses and killing hikers. Our beautiful cathedral, a beloved icon of the city, had lost its tower, killing twenty-two parishioners and visitors.


Emblematic of the terror and loss were two multi-storey buildings which had pancaked, crushing and trapping hundreds of people inside. Although the heroic Urban Search and Rescue teams rescued dozens of people from the rubble, even a week later there are many more bodies still to be recovered.



A weel later, we are back in our house, albeit with no power or water. Life is ar from normal, but we're getting there. Of course, I have little to complain about: our house is still standing. My loved ones are still alive. This is such a blessing, considering that the number of dead and missing is more than 200, and that thousands are now living in welfare centres because their homes are so badly damaged they are unlivable.



What I have been most impressed by – overwhelmed by, even – is the strength of humanity alice in the city. Our neighbours have rallied together. Total strangers are helping one another. Restaurants – those that are still able to function – are offering free food and water. Thirteen thousand people have joined the University-run “Army”, doing everything from clearing silt to bringing around baked goods to people in need. This disaster has brought out people’s love for their city, their sense of community, and a good dose of humour.



Right, so here is a link for those who are more visual: http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/chr...-Before-and-after-the-Christchurch-earthquake
They’re nothing graphic, just buildings and streets that have been ruined. But I warn those of you who know Christchurch – they may bring a tear to your eye if you haven’t seen them already...

OK, sorry again for the late news, but as you can imagine there hasn’t been a lot of opportunity to connect!


~ Charlotte
 

bettielee

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Thank God you and your family are safe. Thank you for the link - I've only seen Christchurch on the internet and movies - it's shocking what the earth moving can do! I hope there aren't any more aftershocks.

I live in California - I still remember October 17, 1989. Scariest day of my life.

It's incredible how a community comes together after a disaster.
 

MissMacchiato

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I'm so glad you and yours are safe. Such a devastating quake. Best of luck with the rebuilding, I will be thinking about you.
 

heyjude

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Wow. I am so grateful you're okay and so sad for all Christchurch has been through.
 

Silver King

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We've been worried about you, and Mac started a thread recently in which you were mentioned.

It's a relief to hear from you and to know that, all things considered, you're doing okay.
 
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MacAllister

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Nice to see you! We've actually now started an official AW Natural Disaster Check-In thread, over in the Bulletin Board Room, kinda/sorta in your honor. :)

ETA: Heh - Dino beat me to it, while I was putting laundry in the dryer before posting my own reply.
 

Steam&Ink

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Nice to see you! We've actually now started an official AW Natural Disaster Check-In thread, over in the Bulletin Board Room, kinda/sorta in your honor. :)

But...but... I didn't even get naming rights! :D

Thanks again, Mac. I'm a bit blown away by all teh luvs here **wipes away tear and hopes no one saw**
 

raburrell

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So glad you're okay - will be thinking of you, and I hope Christchurch's rebuilding/healing process goes smoothly.
 

Button

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My heart was beating so hard just reading your post! I couldn't imagine not knowing where loved ones were for so long. Glad you're ok and I hope everyone can get back to (almost) normal over there.
 

Soccer Mom

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Such a scary time for you! We're all just relieved you're okay.
 

TheIT

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Very glad to hear you & yours are safe, Steam&Ink.

:e2grouphu


I live in California - I still remember October 17, 1989. Scariest day of my life.

Same here. I weathered the Loma Prieta earthquake under a desk at work thinking the whole time that the ground just should NOT move.
 

firedrake

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Jayzus. I can't even begin to imagine how frightening it must be.

So relieved and happy to know you and your family are OK.
 

Silent Rob

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Glad you're ok.
 

regdog

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So glad you're okay
 

Snowstorm

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What a relief! Your descriptions of the trembling had me curled up in the chair with tension. I'm pleased you and yours are, at least, physically alright. My condolences to the terrible loss of life, but best wishes to your sweet town.
 

backslashbaby

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What an amazing story. I'm so glad you and yours are OK!
 

Steam&Ink

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An update

Thanks again for your thoughts and prayers, guys. We are slowly getting some normality back into our lives, but I know that for our friends and neighbours who have lost loved ones it will be a long journey.

A bit of an update, for those who are interested:

At present, the majority of the CBD is off-limits, so businesses are setting up shop in the outlying suburbs. Good news for owners of those commercial properties that had been standing empty since the recession.

The mayor has announced that in a few weeks the CBD will open for Chch residents to make a guided tour through, to see the damage, and to pay our respects to theose who died in the CBD. I think this is a tremendous gesture, which seems to show a lot of understanding of the grief that all Chch people are going through. Kudos to the council and Mayor.

About 70,000 people have left Christchurch, which is around one-fifth of our pre-quake population. You really notice these numbers- most of my neighbourhood is standing empty. Sadly, this is an open invitation for looters, who prey on houses in the areas where there is no power and consequently no street lights. We try to keep an eye on one another's places at night, and the police are patrolling at night with spotlights.

We don't know how many people will decide to leave our beautiful city permanently - over the past few days I have talked to a number of people who don't think they can continue to live here. They are scared to walk beside walls, go into multi-level buildings, ride public transport (two buses were crushed by falling buildings), or pretty much do anything. Perhaps it will wear off after a while - I hope so.

For Sascha (hubby) and I, things are dawdling along. The University hasn't opened yet, so Sascha's at a loose end and worried about his students (whether they will be able to get credit for courses that they've enrolled in but haven't happened, etc). We're still waiting for the power to come back on, which I think will really help in getting a bit back to normal. We're one of the last suburbs without power; something about snapped underground cables and replacement cables failing - d'oh!

Thanks again for your thoughts and kindness, you guys. It's been lovely to read your kinds words. Really brings home how many wonderful people I have met through this site.
 

alleycat

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A special little "shout out" to our New Zealand members.

With everyone focusing on Japan at the moment it's easy to feel like everyone has forgotten your problems. We had major floods were I live last May and because there was another big news story during that time (a bomb threat in New York), some felt like we'd been forgotten.

So, just saying we haven't all forgotten you.
 
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