– Ilam, Christchurch

Alison’s Earthquake Blog/Panui
Thought I would send you a panui about what the earthquake meant for us and how it is affecting us all since. It has been so heart warming the generosity from everyone that I thought it was a way of acknowledging your thoughts and concerns about us.

It was amazing the quake was only 20 seconds long. But it wrought so much damage. Our first one in September was 40 seconds long. The Tokyo earthquake was 4 minutes long!!! A neighbour from here was in Tokyo for their quake and he said it just rolled and but ours felt more violent. Paul was at home for both quakes so he had an idea how they both felt and in the 22 Feb quake he thought our house would fall down and we had no damage! Imagine what it felt like for people with damage. Our quake was so violent because it went up and down and across. Houses went up in the air with the first bit then the ground sunk underneath them so they fell very heavily (I think that’s how it went). We can no longer say “that felt like a 4” or what ever because we have learnt the magnitude is only a small part of the equation.

Us

I thought you may like to know what we were all doing on the day. I think one of the most terrifying stories was our granddaughter – Reni. Her school is in the middle of town. I think her building was okay but when they were evacuated onto the street they had to take her past people with blood on them and other people that she said were just lying on the road. Briar was beside herself because she didn’t know if she was safe. She ran to town to find her. There was little cell phone coverage as they all jammed with overloading. You were lucky if you got through and some people didn’t know for hours what had happened to their loved ones.

Mike, Briar’s husband also was working in the middle of town. He is a policeman so he was straight out into the streets helping people. He hasn’t said much but when I asked him how they coped with the after shocks (they were major, very violent), he said you just had to be careful where you were standing. He didn’t get home until 1 am.

Lucy (Matene’s wife) was home on her own with the three littles (4, 2 and 4 months). She was thrown across the kitchen with a child in her arms. Everything flew out of the cupboards and smashed, TVs, printer fell, drawers flew out of the cabinets, cabinets fell over. Fridge thrown across the other side of the kitchen. She then had to watch as the water rose up outside from the liquefaction. They had an electric garage door opener and she didn’t know how to over ride it. Her cell phone didn’t work and no electricity for the other phone. She didn’t know how high the water was going to rise and she didn’t know how she was going to carry 3 littles if she had to evacuate. Matene was normally ½ hour away working and it took him 3 ½ hours to get home because of road damage and huge traffic jams.

I was at Polytech (which is in the middle of town) doing a course. I was only on the first floor and it didn’t feel too bad. My arms and legs shook a bit but okay. Then I had to walk home (I had caught the bus in). I could see dust rising from the city centre, hear sirens, so thought I had better not go that way, so went out as far as I could away from tall buildings. There was bricks all over the roads, bridges sunken in, liquefaction starting to pour out of the ground. That was all okay until people started coming out from the middle of town and the looks of their shell shocked faces. People weren’t talking, just pale and big eyed. It was like we had been in a war. At this stage I had no idea what had happened in town or anywhere. Finally I asked someone listening to a radio, had people been killed and they said they thought so. It took me approximately 3 hours to walk home what normally may have been 1 hour. To this day I couldn’t tell you which street I walked down, you were so traumatised. There were no buses and many cars were stuck in car parking buildings, which we are finally getting back now. Many have been destroyed though. I walked with people that may have walked for 5 or so hours just to find out if their children were okay. I had a friend who was a teacher and she said they still had children there at 5 pm because their parents hadn’t arrived. There were sirens sounding like I’ve never heard before, all different tones. They’ll haunt me for ever.

Briar ran from the University to her boys school and one of them said, “what did you come for, I want to play!” The miracle of it was that not one child was killed at ChCh schools, it may have been because it was lunch time and they were playing outside. Many schools have severe damage and they are having to double up, two schools into a day on one site. Reni’s school has had to move to a whole new site.

How bad was it? Well aside from the deaths, approximately 12,000 houses have severe damage or are totally written off. At the first earthquake there were 1200 road repairs to be made, this quake 38,000! Can you imagine one of your main arterial routes like Wellington motorway or Parakai Drive in Auckland having a hole underneath the road that could fit a huge truck and trailer in it! Initially to get anywhere was hair raising. There were big sink holes, huge piles of liquefaction – it used to take my friend ¼ hour to drive to work and initially after the quake – 1 ½ hours for the same journey! But the workmen in ChCh have been absolutely amazing. They are doing 24 hour shifts, and the roads are steadily being fixed. Awful part is though it is often only temporary as they have to do major pipe repairs underneath the roads so will be all ripped up again. You just are so grateful, when you see workmen you yell out thank you. They get huge wishes of thanks in the paper. I was going to work one morning and on a really dangerous huge rise in the road there at 6 am they were working on lowering it!!! Such an essential part of our recovery. It was amazing what things gave you pleasure after the quake. Two days after the quake, down our street trundled the rubbish man and his truck. He stopped and talked to us, and I told him how grateful we were to see something normal like the rubbish being picked up.

Things to be grateful for -

We’re all alive, not injured and our houses are mainly alright.

Post earthquake – Lucy, Matene and whanau came to live with us for more or less 11 days. They had no water, power or sewage. Also Lucy’s grandparents for a few days as their house was a huge mess with broken things. There was a huge shifting of people all over the city. We had no power for three days but everything else okay. We got out the BBQ, had gas lamps, small cookers and we coped, can you imagine no power and 9 people, just like camping. At one stage Matene etc were here and their friends were in their house as their friends had no amenities for much longer. We would pack up our washing and decamp to someone who had power. I saw people with freezers on the back of trailer moving them to someone with power.

It was like a war zone for weeks – Iroquois helicopters thumping overhead, army tanks thundering down the road, soldiers, security, police every were and you were thrilled to see them.

At our house though if you walked outside you nearly could have said – “earthquake what earthquake?” it looked so normal in the street. But this made you feel guilty as you knew how much others were suffering. You felt like it was more difficult to emphasise. You felt like to be part of the city you needed to have had damage happen to you.

Our city was one of Hi Vis vests, it is just the latest!!! It seemed like for weeks the only people out and about were men and women in work vans, trucks etc in high vis.

To get into my work through the barriers I had to provide ID (in little old NZ!) and I had to answer questions about were I worked etc.

There were and still are road blocks everywhere. You have no idea at times how to get from one place to another with shut roads. Our roads were full of those huge concrete barriers.

All the buildings in the inner city have graffiti on their walls and this is okay. They have the date on them and things like “clear” as well as cars in inner city. Showing they have been checked for bodies etc.

How did it affect my wider circle?

A nurse I worked with was killed when bricks fell on his car, 4 nurses in the ward have houses that are just liveable but may be demolished. One nurse had a Japanese student that was killed. The nurses with jiggered houses have things like half of the house learning away from the other half, outside doors that don’t meet, windows with holes around the edges.

Paul’s mate in England, cousin was killed and I think her flat in the CBD is still closed off.

At least one nurse had a partner that has lost his job.

Everyone has a story to top another story like the Irish do (you know my life was so tough as a child I slept under the house!) Seriously my hairdresser lived up on the hill and all her cupboard door flew off in the kitchen. Other people said their toilets flew off the wall and another said the toilet then flew down the passage.

How are we in our selves

We had horrendous after shocks they went on all night very strong. But miracle of miracle we feel very few now, not like the first earthquake were we had 100s that we felt and left you unnerved.

The memorial service was the best thing to have happened. It was so healing. I sobbed when they showed what the damage was. We saw very little of that on TV because we had no TV so really didn’t know what the CBD looked like.

People are stressed. People you would never think who would be have been very weepy and thought to myself at one stage I needed to be careful. But much improved.. A girl I work with who seems to be as tough as old boots admitted to feeling weepy. We have talked about it over and over again. Not so much at work now. It’s still there though. One of my grandsons was in the bath and I pulled the plug and it made a gurgling sound and he did an enormous start. Not right for a little fellow to be like that at four. You are weary when you hear thumps, bangs, odd noises as you wonder if its an earthquake.

We do things like keep our dressing gowns at the end of the bed, just in case we need them. I always have my cell phone handy. Some people carry torches and whistles just in case. I push things back into the back of the cupboard so they wont fall out; we keep 10 litres of fresh water in the shed,

The feeling of gratitude we have for each other and the rest of New Zealand knows no bounds. It absolutely blows us away how supportive everyone has been. Thank you to you all. I hope you all can bear with us till we get ourselves up and going again. I’m afraid we may be a big drain on New Zealand, thank you again.

Today

We still have big trouble on our roads, but it is because of the repair crews, mainly at night. They close parts off so they can start putting in pipes etc. Lots of the roads are sealed now, although still parts not. Very bumpy though, no good for boy racers. Some parts that are really bad have a 30k speed limit because they shake the houses that are damaged. Outside my work is water tanks as we cant use the water from the taps as not guaranteed safe. I cant imagine going to work in the morning saying “whose boiling the water today?”, new generators and boilers as the emergency generators were not very reliable. At home we are not allowed to flush our toilets unless it is brown, not for wee. Only 30% of the pumping stations working. Lucy and Matene still have to use chemical toilets. You can smell sewage at Matene and Lucys from the sewage ponds.

You make sure your pictures are well anchored, looking at anchoring our bookcases etc to the walls. I remember years ago, Mark Ellis advising us to do this on TV and you just looked and thought no more about doing it. Different story now.

I read the local paper front to back as there is heaps of information about what is happening. Normally you only give it a bit of a glance.

But guess what? We are moving ahead, we have tents going up in Hagley Park so we can have some entertainment and for World Cup rugby etc. We are having meetings to talk about how we see the future for ChCh. It is exciting as we are going to have the most modern city in NZ. There is a sense of future hope in town. People are so resilient. We will be okay. People are starting to get repairs started and completed.

We have our new fire operating.

Thank you a million again. We feel the most enormous aroha to you all

Alison and whanau

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