This post is mostly for future-me to reminisce, feel free to skip over it if you’ve heard it already!
So last Friday afternoon, Stephen and I headed off for a fun adventure to Lake Tekapo. We were going to participate in the 8th annual Southern Cross Ice Hockey Tournament – a fun weekend designed to wrap up the women’s hockey season.
And as my Christchurch compatriots well know, things did not go entirely as planned. We were shaken awake at 4:40am by what seemed like a fairly big earthquake. And unlike my fellow Christchurchians, we went back to sleep without giving it another thought. I was next awoken about an hour later as people started texting to see if we were alright. Other than being woken up in the middle of the night twice (!), we were fine, of course. But that was my first inkling that something was wrong. I jumped on the iPad and dialed up the New Zealand Herald website. Nothing there. Then I tried Twitter. It was going OFF. There had been a major earthquake in Christchurch.
I spent the next couple of hours playing hockey (in the early morning light, beautiful), worrying, and trying to get hold of all my beloved ones to make sure they were okay. Which they were. Everyone safe and accounted for. Not so my poor city. As it emerged in the days following, Christchurch was badly shaken up. The 7.1M earthquake was shallow, and because parts of the city is build on swamp land or sand, it wobbled like jelly, taking brick buildings and chimneys with it.
So here is the event from my point of view.
It felt surreal. I felt it, but not the terror that many people must have. I was far away, safe, having a fun time. I was also distracted by the fact that Grace’s water had broke and she was waiting patiently to go into labour. Returning to Christchurch on Sunday night I went straight to the hospital where, three hours later, I watched my new granddaughter arrive. It was just beautiful. Soft lights, music, peaceful (other than poor Grace’s yelling). What an amazing thing to experience. Earthquakes were a million miles away.
It wasn’t until I drove home that it started to sink in. No hot water upstairs – the water tank had burst. No clean drinking water until further notice. Luckily for me I cheerily flew off to Wellington the next morning for a two-day meeting. I followed along on Twitter again, but felt removed.
So my first real experiences of the earthquake aftermath were the aftershock I felt on Wednesday morning (sounded and felt HUGE but was only a 4-point-something), and driving through the rubble in the centre of the city on Wednesday afternoon.
So now it’s Sunday, and things are finally starting to feel normal again. The aftershocks seem to have slowed (all-told we’ve had over 400; I felt two of them). The city has reopened and clean-up is underway. It’s sad to drive around and see buildings coming down.
I went for a run around my suburb this morning. We live right by a river and a lake, so there was a lot of silt from the burst banks. The water in the lake and the river had risen sharply with the quake and all the water had spilled out. It seems to be back where it belongs now, but there is a lot of damage as a result. There are huge cracks in the pavement and roads and plenty of evidence of liquefaction (what a weird process that is!).
And port-a-loos everywhere – one every few houses. This was part of the emergency response. A lot of houses were without running water, so the civil defense arranged portable toilets to be placed in the streets for people to use. Clever. Speaking of which, the emergency response was amazing. Most people had power and water restored within hours of the quake, and those that needed their houses assessed had this done within hours or days. People who needed tradespeople were taken care of. It will take a long time to clean up the mess, but I was amazed at just how fast the process was begun.
Sometimes people grumble about taxes and levies, but after an event like this, I can see what I’m paying for. Immediate and comprehensive disaster relief, compensation for lost houses, wages, business. It will cost us billions, but we will be okay. I love my little socialist state.