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.
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.