Christchurch The day the Earth Shook


As all of you know Christchurch was shaken by a massive earthquake on 22nd February at 12.51pm local time. Inspite of all the places in New Zealand we could have been, we found ourselves in Christchurch on that fateful day, how we came to be here we will reveal in our blogs in due course. As it is headline news round the world we thought we’d share our experence with you out of sequence.
We apologise for the fact we are so behind, it was always our intention to write our blogs in real time hence why they are present tense but there is always so much going on (especially in NZ) that it has been extremely hard to keep up.

Christchurch 22nd February
Yesterday we arranged to go for a ride today with Anna our Guzzi riding friend around the Peninsula southwest of Christchurch.
We wake to heavy drizzle and a text to put this plan on hold, Anna said as the weather was bad we would reschedule and wait for a good day as the views are spectacular. The Peninsular is just beyond Lyttleton which is where the earthquake was centered and this area was badly damaged.
Barry our friend whose house we are staying in has already gone to work. A tear in our bikes roof is being fixed by a local company in Christchurch and will be ready to collect midday today so we plan to do some sight seeing in town after we collect it. We use this opportunity to catch up on emails and blogs whilst we wait for the rain to blow over and I also take time to have a shower. It is now around midday so I start preparing lunch prior to going into town, I have just boiled the kettle on the gas stove and poured the water into the cups. While they are brewing I carry on with the sandwiches I was making. Kev is busy blogging on the couch. Without any warning there is a loud bang and the house shakes violently, my first instinct is get out of this kitchen area away from all the dangerous stuff, I am lucky there is a door frame very close by but I still manage to bash my arm on something. Kev yells “get out” and attempts to get outside and makes for the sliding door barely 3 steps away, he almost loses his footing but grabs the sliding door and throws himself outside thinking I am behind him. The shaking probably only lasts 30 seconds but I would never have believed something as big and heavy as a house could move so much, the shaking has subsided Kev comes back in to see where I am and we stare wide eyed at each other for a minute and breathing again we survey the carnage.
We are very fortunate to be in a safe place, Barry’s house is a single storey built on a concrete pad and only five years old so of a high earthquake standard. Also having lived with the constant threat of this he is prepared, things are bolted to the walls, the cooker is chained similarly.
I look at the kitchen the cooker is hanging by it’s chain having been shaken out from the wall, all the drawers are open this is what bashed my arm. By some miracle the china cups and plates are still on the worktop but in the living room it’s a different story. Every picture and photograph is on the floor together with piles of cd’s and books. The floor lamp went over as did the tv in the bedroom which is now lying face down on the carpet having been shaken off its unit. It is the same throughout the house but at the moment we are not picking anything up that’s not leaking or dangerous as we are still getting quite violent aftershocks. All this time there is also an undercurrent of movement, the closest I can liken it to is being on a boat at sea it actually makes us feel quite queasy.
Outside the bike is miraculously still upright having been jolted off it’s center stand and landed on the side stand which for some reason we left down. We check on Barry’s garage and pick up his bike running outside when the garage is shaken by another aftershock as its not a safe place to be.
Kev turns on the TV the power is still on, Coronation street is playing. He can’t believe there is nothing about the earth quake  but soon a news flash appears at the bottom and they switch to a emergency report. At 6.3 on the Richter scale its a big earthquake but still less than the 7.1  that shook them in September. The difference is that one was further away and 30km deep. This one is closer to the city and only 5km deep so it’s much more devastating. It soon becomes evident that the city centre is badly damaged and although there is no mention of casualties yet but  the timing means people must have been hurt or killed.
Barry soon appears back on his bicycle he took his car into town this morning to get the crack in the screen fixed!
 Barry is a calming influence, he ascertains we have no water so pulls out the pre filled bottles from under the sink. We have power and internet so begin to let family and friends know we are safe they are still asleep and will wake to the news in a few hours.
My parents should be leaving England to fly out here soon they are coming out for a holiday to catch up with us. Christchurch airport is closed at the moment and we will wait to speak to them in the morning to see what they decide to do. Barry has contacted his family and friends and thankfully they are okay. The ground is still shimmying  just little movements enough to make you feel slightly sea sick with a big lurch of an aftershock every once in a while. One is big enough to send us all scurrying for the door frame again.
Barry goes to check on his neighbours and shows us the liquifaction on his drive, this is bizzare stuff the ground shakes so violently that the heavy matter drops away and the light stuff with water bubbles to the surface rather like a lava flow. It is grey and a jelly like consistency but it hardens like cement when dry. This stuff has bubbled to the surface all over the neighbourhood but until it stops and hardens it is not worth clearing up. There is liquifaction everywhere and water running down the street from the burst main.
We discuss with Barry our best options and decide to stay the night and leave in the morning. We are unsure which roads have cracked and what is still passable we will have a clearer picture in the morning. The authorities are asking people to stay put to keep the roads clear as emergency services need to get through, they are evacuating the central business district (cbd). The roads are choked with traffic and it’s obvious that a lot of people are getting out. Barry thinks that we will be able to get out tomorrow and that it is probably the best thing to do as we don’t need to be here and resources will be scarce enough anyway. The news informs us that of the 11 sewage pumping stations only 5 are now working so we are advised not use the toilet and boil all water if its still on as they will divert waste to the rivers. We don’t have any water anyway but as it’s started to rain I suggest we try and catch some of it. The guys agree it’s a good idea and by unplugging the gutters they divert it into a clean recycling wheelie bin. Barry suggests we don trousers and have an emergency bag and torches ready in case we need to evacuate the premises during the night. Since it happened we have been constantly on edge and feel exhausted as you are ever alert, we feel the need to take our minds off the events for a while so watch a movie although this isn’t totally sucessful as the couch gently shimmey’s every now and then and we give up bidding Barry goodnight and retire for a broken nights sleep. We manage to get some kip but are woken three or four times by the bigger shakes one almost has us diving for the doors again. Our hearts go out to the residents of Christchurch we have only had one day and night of this they have suffered 6 months of aftershocks from the original quake.
I would estimate we experience over 80 after shocks, most are minor where you feel like it is liquid beneath you and things shimmey slightly, then about 15 which make you sit up and think do I run and 3 where you do run for cover.
In the morning we start to pack up the bike and say goodbye and thank you to Barry who is going out to check on his family and friends. We leave Barry all the drinking water we can spare and some sterilising tablets. When we fire the bike it sounds like a tractor, the violent shaking has cracked the flange off the left hand exhaust manifold and broken one of the side screens., There will be no one open in town to weld it back on so we make a noisy exit from Christchurch but at least she is still going. Rather than going anywhere near to the center we delibrately choose the outer ring road and here you would not notice that much damage. There are kilometer long queues at the petrol stations as we leave town however but luckily we are full of petrol.
We head north towards Amberley it is our intention to stay with Anna tonight but at only 50kms from Christchurch all the fuel stations are out of supplies or have really long queues and the local shops almost had riots last night where people were fighting over bread, water and tinned items. As we can only carry enough supplies for 4-5 days it would be silly to remain here and run out so we press on towards Blenheim but first we pull into a garage to get the exhaust welded. The guys here at Hurunui engineering are really kind to us, they are all into bikes so not only do they refuse to take any money but allow us to make coffee and lunch upstairs in their kitchen. They also inform us Kaikoura the next town is out of fuel, a blow as we need to fill up there but we could stay a few nights there. We head on and stop in Kaikoura that night, we manage to refuel as they have had a delivery but even here 150km away there is a policeman controlling the queue and the shops are all stripped of bread, milk, water and other tinned food etc. We stay in a doc campsite exhausted but grateful we are okay and that the ground has stopped shaking.

Over the next few days we slowly learned just how many people had been killed and seriously wounded in this disaster not to mention all of those who have been made homeless. We felt guilty leaving and felt that we would have liked to do something to help but the cbd was locked down and we were told to stay out for our own safety. We have since made a donation to the red cross earthquake appeal for the city. On the road out there was a stream of emergency crews and army trucks coming the other way pouring into the city and we took some comfort from this.
Christchurch we feel for you !

  1. No comments yet.
(will not be published)