The initial quake was bad enough, but we've been enduring severe aftershocks. Yesterday morning was one of the worst. About five to eight my laptop flew up in the air, water jumped out of the glass beside me, and my daughter and grandchildren were under the table within seconds. 6.1 the radio said. But it turned out to be of lesser intensity, just closer to us - the epicentre about 5 miles away, on another fault, and only 3 miles deep. This one was different in other ways too. We've got used to the rumbling and shaking ones - you can hear them coming like a distant train and brace yourself. The rattling starts gently and then intensifies before dying away. This one was a huge jolt, as if we were in a car and somone had slammed the brakes on. Everything leapt into the air and in town apparently people panicked. Buildings that had withstood all the others locally, were damaged by it. The supermarkets and warehouses had just restocked the shelves, only to find the contents littering the floor again. Wine, jars, packets, tins all rolling around the floor fit for nothing but the bin. I had been going to do an interview at the local radio station, but the studio was damaged by this quake.
We're living on our nerves. You simply never know when the next one is going to be, or how bad it's going to be. It seems to be travelling along a network of previously undetected faults, hidden by river gravel and silt in the Canterbury basin. Sometimes the ground seems to be shaking all the time and it's difficult to know if that's just our sense of balance (we're all feeling giddy) or whether it really is. There's a very good site - the Canterbury quake map which maps all the quakes both small and large and it seems to suggest that our instincts are right - there are constant tremors beneath our feet.
Odd things happen - perfume atomisers have ceased to work and water bottles have imploded as they do on aircraft with the change in cabin pressure. So do quakes affect air pressure?
Sand volcanoes appeared in people's gardens and on the beach, where slurried material was forced up from underground to the surface. We went to look at them today and although the wind and tide have washed the distinctive 'cones' away, there is still a strange porous mound that acts like quicksand when you stand on it.
|Sand volcanoes on the beach after the quake|
|A sand volcano today|
But the city has long been prepared for an earthquake and the government's response has been amazing. Hopefully the rebuilding will be quick. Meanwhile, we've had a much quieter day today, with fewer big shocks, so maybe things are settling down.