Thursday, October 14, 2010

Canterbury Earthquake - September 4th 2010

It's several weeks since the earthquake and I've been trying to think what to write and what I want to say and remember and what I feel but I guess the best place to start is what actually happened for us.

Tahu had a gig on the Friday night and so he got home at 3am. We hadn't been asleep long when I remember waking up and everything was moving and I didn't even wonder what was happening because a second later it got a whole lot worse and it felt like Tahu and I moved in slow motion sitting up and trying to get off the bed and to the doorway. Something fell by my bed and smashed and I fell back on the bed and somehow we made it to the doorway and it slowed down. We got the door open and called out to Nat and she had Madi and was in their doorway too. All we could hear was car alarms and we went to the landing window to see if we could see anything next door cos Odette was home alone. I remember shaking so hard and the house just seemed like it was still moving and just going what is going on! I only had my pj top on and I knew I needed more clothes and my phone and of course the power was out and so I went back to beside the bed and started patting around on the floor to find my pants and all I found was broken glass. I tried to find the torch too which was also on the floor but no luck so got my phone and used it as light to find the torch. I was shaking so much in the end I gave up and went to the wardrobe for my trackpants. I don't know why I wanted them but I didn't want jeans! I rang Odette and left a message that we were coming over and grabbed a quilt and we all went downstairs and next door. I think we knocked but didn't get an answer so I went to the lockbox and Tahu had to help me get it open but there wasn't a key. We went and knocked again and Odette came down and we all went back to ours. She grabbed her ipod so we could have radio and so for the next couple of hours we sat in the lounge and called and texted and talked until it got lighter. I couldn't get through nz cells so I called Lilly and Jem and left messages to tell them what had happened. Lillys must have been scary to hear because while I was talking another big one came and I had to hang up as we ran for the doorway.

Deb texted pretty quickly and I thought she was in Hanmer with everyone else but soon realised she wasn't. I texted and called Uncle and Aunty and heard from them in the end too which was good.

Daylight finally came and Odette went back to hers and Nat and Madi went to Nats mums because they had power. Tahu went to sleep on the couch and I drove to mum and dads to see their place and to check on their neighbour who lives alone. Their house was a mess, draws open, everything off the window sills, I remember looking in their bedroom window and seeing the tv antenna on the bed and wondering why they'd put that there and then realising it was because the tv had fallen off the dresser and the antenna had landed on the bed.

Their front neighbours had lost their chimney and I stopped and talked to them for a wee bit then went and found Rob next door. He was ok but nervous and had lost his chimney too. He'd seen both the cats though which was good. I got my keys and went back to mum and dads and took a video so they'd see what it was like. We still hadn't heard from them and I had decided they had one more hour and then I'd just have to drive to them because 5 hours after this terrible earthquake was quite enough time to get hold of us. At that point deb called and said she'd had a text from Chrissy and then Dad called and it was such a relief. All we'd known was that they weren't contacting us and that the quake was centred near Christchurch, possibly in that direction.

I don't remember much else from that day. We went to mum and dads at lunch time when they got back from Hanmer and was good to see them and Reuben and tell them what had happened. We watched a lot of TV once we got our power back. Two channels had non stop coverage and actually it was good to see the magnitude of it and what was happening in town. It wasn't till several hours later we realised we'd been watching the same pictures all day and actually it wasn't for over a week that I realised it really was devastating for Christchurch.

Saturday night we brought the spare room mattress downstairs (which reminds me I really must remake that bed) and slept in the lounge which meant we actually got some sleep and only felt a few of the aftershocks. The next night though we slept upstairs, I didn't want to but I knew I couldn't keep putting it off.

It felt awful going up to our room, it took me hours to get around to cleaning up the smashed vase. Firstly cos we had no power to vacuum it! It was in my drawers and through my clothes that were on the floor and it had shattered so I'm still finding glass! It wasn't that we'd lost it, it was that it added to that awful memory with darkness and the house rocking and the smashing sound and not knowing when it would end.

A pretty emotional moment was when we got power back and I looked up the Haiti earthquake which was 9 months earlier and had killed 230,000 people and we realised that our earthquake had been stronger and even closer to the surface. Not a single person was killed, only two people were seriously injured and they are both out of hospital and within two weeks of the quake. I know there's timing and building structure and all of that but it was overwhelming to realise what a miracle we'd all just gone through.

We spent a lot of Saturday having conversations that started with "Imagine if...". Imagine if it was two hours earlier, Tahu was playing a gig where buildings were badly damaged and his car was parked where another one is now flattened. Imagine if we'd decided to go to Hanmer for Friday instead of Saturday, Odette and Nat would have both been home alone. Imagine if the quake had hit during a work day. There were so many things that could have made this worse for us.

Monday we went to work but came home early. Tuesday was work and I spent the day replying to emails from clients who had got our update newsletter saying we were ok. Town was strange, I went for a drive and took photos because some of the buildings are being demolished. It was so strange seeing broken buildings, police, army, blocked access. Things that don't happen in Christchurch.

The next morning Tahu went to work and I had just got out of the shower when the next major aftershock hit. I couldn't even get to the door again, I just had to hold on to the cabinet in the bathroom. I went onto the landing and Nat was there with Madi and I realised I was just in a towel and then I realised Nat and I were both dressed the same! She'd just got out of the shower too! We have to be careful how we tell that story though cos it doesn't sound right when we say we'd just got out of the shower!

Our power was out again and texts starting coming, making sure everyone was ok. I have to say, it would have been so different without texting!

Wednesday through Friday our building was closed so was a nice long weekend. Most of it was spent in bed just watching movies or reading. Mostly because I just needed a break.

For days after that Saturday we all felt like we were permanently shaking. We didn't notice half the aftershocks because we felt like there was always an earthquake.

I can't get my head around how things have changed. It is so surreal! Buildings are gone, we are all suddenly experts and know things about depth, magnitude and epicentres, about liquefaction, silt, fault lines. Nobody asks how you are, they ask how your house is. We are suddenly in our own special group. We can't explain it to someone who wasn't there. There's no way to explain it. I saw a video on Youtube last night of footage from the Chile earthquake and it was so different to when I'd heard about it previously. Now I know what they felt, how it felt, how awful it is.

Our nerves are gone, any shake or movement and we freeze. But it's not just that, it's the sound. Any rumble or unusual sound and I wait for the earthquake. We can hear the quakes before we feel them. And realising how close we are. The other night there was one only about 10km from my house. No wonder we feel them!! And that the epicentres are constantly moving. It's not just one spot in darfield. It's all over Canterbury that we're getting them.

Tonight there was one and from the sound and the feeling of it I guessed it would be in Halswell but it was actually in Tai Tapu. I was one suburb over! How ridiculous that I can now guess the epicentre of an earthquake. And it's just so close to our home. The sound is so intense, that's one of the things that sucks, you hear it coming and you don't know how bad it is going to be.

Mum and Dad have adopted a cat and they had to take him to the vet today cos he is just not coping. He's been put on sedatives. He was crawling around the house on his belly. Poor wee man! I don't blame him. Yesterday we had a 5 which was the 10th biggest we'd had and I was in training with clients in Australia. We are 3 floors up and it was awful. I don't know how I managed to finish the session!

I don't know when this will end. Nobody does actually. We've had 1876 earthquakes in just under 6 weeks. We haven't felt them all but we've definitely felt a fair few of them! Some time I'll post the pictures I took.

I guess one thing that bothers me is that I just can't get my head around it. Life is different now. There's no going back to feeling like you can get through life without something bad happening. I wondered if I could do that but now we're living through a really serious natural disaster. It's hard to explain. I'll be glad when it quietens down for sure!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Jo it is so good you have all this written down. It is something all of us should do for the future really, but why should I write my experiences when yours is so good! Well done xx 278 xx