Saturday, 4 September 2010

Earthquake in Christchurch

I woke up at four thirty this morning and the bed was rocking wildly underneath me. There was a loud rumbling noise under the floor and the walls and the ceiling were flexing backwards and forwards like something from a disaster movie. Cupboard doors flew open and objects fell from shelves. I knew I should try to roll off the bed onto the floor with my pillow for protection, but I couldn’t. My daughter Meredith and her husband were trying to reach the children in the next room, but the house was rocking so much they had difficulty walking - the house was swaying from side to side like a ship in a storm. The noise was incredible - the rumbling of the earthquake underneath the ground, the wood structure of the house creaking and groaning, the tin roof sheets screeching as they twisted.

All was in total darkness - the electricity cut out in the first seconds of the quake. Following emergency instructions, as soon as we could stand, we gathered up the children, an emergency bag of food, drinks and warm clothes, got into the car and headed out of Christchurch up into the hills in case the quake was followed by a tsunami - the city is very low lying and there is a very efficient tsunami watch system. On the hill there were landslides and the electricity wires were draped low over the road where the pylons had slid. The radio told us that the quake had measured 7.4 on the richter scale and that there was extensive damage to the city. Later we were told that the epicentre was only 20 miles from Christchurch, about ten miles deep, but because it was inland, there was no tsunami risk.


I walked into town - most of the roads were closed off and I was amazed that so much of the city was intact. Fortunately all modern structures have to be built to high earthquake tolerance levels. Most of the damage was to older buildings.




At the baptist church, which puts up new slogans regularly, I couldn’t resist taking a picture of the current one. As I clicked the shutter, a kiwi bloke behind me quipped, ‘Blimey - they got that one up quick!’


Back home, aftershocks rumbled on under our feet (some of them quite powerful) and pictures swayed and rattled, but everything is still intact. The power is out over most of the city. Water and sewage supplies have been disrupted by broken pipes, where the roads have been damaged. The prospect of having to use the back garden as a loo, and having no safe water to drink has driven us temporarily into the country to stay with very kind family friends in an unaffected area. Luckily my daughter lives in a small wooden house built on stacks above the ground. It behaved like a ship, or a wooden crate - it flexed and warped and stayed intact.


This afternoon they evacuated the centre of Christchurch, and now there's a curfew from 7pm. 

5 comments:

  1. Have just read about this online, Kathleen, so relieved to hear that you are all OK. Not at all what you anticipated when you set off from the UK . . .

    Do hope that everything gets back to normal in Christchurch very soon.

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  2. You certainly picked an interesting time to visit! Glad you're all OK, although it sounds a very scary experience.

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  3. I was worried about you and yours as soon as I heard about the quake yesterday morning.
    Then the news reported no fatalities and I breathed a bit easier.

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  4. hi kathy, peg here.i've just followed mez's link from facebook, wow! sounds like something out of a disaster movie, but with a happy ending! thank god! i'm glad to hear your all fine! are you over there holidaying? send my love to the family, big kisses and stay safe!

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  5. Thank you everyone - I'm back on line and back in Christchurch now. Will give another update soon. Thanks for all your kind thoughts.

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