Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Earthquake II

Actually it isn't Earthquake II. It's Earthquake 898, counting from the September 4th one of last year. And there've been another 60 aftershocks since lunchtime yesterday, so we're currently at 959. (Seven more since lunchtime, so that's 966.)(Hup, another four. 970.)(And now yet another four. 974.)

As a matter of fact I didn't know anything about it until the Eqnews email came in and I thought uh-oh, a 6.3, that's a big one, my sister - who is geographically unsure how close Motueka is to Christchurch - will be worried. But the Inbox remained empty so I had to email her:

Why haven't you asked whether I'm alright? Eh? Eh?
I might be dead or partially squashed for all you know.
I shall examine my emails carefully in the morning to see if you need reassurance or counselling or something.

At five I turned on the radio and was dismayed to find it was indeed a Big One and has killed people and there are survivors busy texting from underneath all the rubble. I knew Mr Knight was away in Dunedin cycling with a bunch of penny farthing people, but luckily Mrs Knight rang us last night and said that since the September 4th earthquake her school had been having weekly Earthquake Drills, and all of a sudden she was 30 schoolchildren short of a class and then suddenly realising, she peered down below and found that they were all being hedgehogs under their desks.

Naturally the prime minister has declared a state of emergency to sound as if he's doing something, and naturally all news bulletins have been extended interminably, but since the journalists are having trouble thinking of things to say, people are being interviewed at Auckland airport as to how they felt about being able to catch an aeroplane out of Christchurch. Fortunately I can break this impasse because I heard from Martin van den Nieuwelaar who, if you recall, lives in the thick of it:

Hi Richard,

It would seem that the Internet is the only reliable communication at the moment. Yes we are both fine, and the house is fine too. The damage caused by this quake is far greater than the last big one.

I was on the 11th floor at work at the time in the Central Business District, which is the area worst hit. I remember hoping that the building would hang in there, as I watched... (another aftershock)... ... as I watched and saw things thrown around much more than in the Sep 4 quake. When the shaking stopped there was a lot of dust over the city visible out the windows. This later turned to smoke. The central door in the hallway swung closed and jammed so we were trapped. We kicked our way through a wall to get out. I took some photos, but dropped the camera in some water (flooding water mains, sewage etc.) so cannot retrieve them yet. I walked home as the streets were blocked by cars trying to escape the mess. Destruction everywhere. Not complete destruction mind you, but certainly many places bent or collapsed. Way more damage in the centre of town this time. Stonehurst hotel collapsed as did Charlie B backpackers, as did CTV building where many have perished. Look down any street in the centre of town and you see broken up roads, water and sewage everywhere, broken windows, glass on the street, poles down, collapsed buildings or rather 'bent' buildings everywhere.

We're still renovating and so much of our stuff is in storage - who knows what state it's in. Also our camping stove and emergency stuff are in storage. Fortunately last night it rained so we have plenty of water (collected off the roof).

Today we have power back on, and the computers still work - after picking them back up off the floor. No real cell coverage though! Landlines appear to be working but we're told not to use them. As last time, we (the people at the centre of the event) haven't seen any of the footage due to no power etc. Except of course for me, who experienced it first hand. I'm glad the building still stands, as not all high-rises were so lucky... So all in all, we're fine, but once again it will be interesting to see how people behave this time round. Certainly the disruption will go on for much longer than the last quake.


Martin van den Nieuwelaar
Bicycle sizing and gearing software - www.firstgear.co.nz
Internet backbone traffic visualisation - www.gadgets.co.nz

I, however, deprived of exciting geological trauma, contrived to walk into the drawing room door in the dark and split my forehead, requiring three stitches. (Though actually this happened the day before. It was pre-emptive sympathy-seeking.)



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