Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Another major earthquake shatters Christchurch worse than before ~

ARTICLE UPDATED by the addition of further content on 22th March 2011

On the 22nd February 2011 I wrote ~
AN UNBELIEVABLY TRAGIC DAY IN CHRISTCHURCH:
The newspaper 'Stuff' website has been updating this story during the afternoon and evening:

Those trying to locate friends and family may wish to use the Person Finder website Google has made available.  
For those who find the plain http address simpler to copy here it is:
Readers are encouraged to circulate this site address as there are a lot of people in distress over not being able to reach loved ones.

Those trying to figure out what's been going on, the scientific and historical background, may find useful information and links in my earlier article about the big quake of 4th September 2010: Christchurch earthquake ~ things that went bump in the night 

The few sketchy details I can give you which may not have been included in the news bulletins this evening are:
  • Shag Rock, the landmark rock formation at the city end of Sumner Beach has disintegrated and is no more.
  • The bridge linking Ferrymead to Mt Pleasant, Redcliffs and Sumner is impassable
  • Two people I know who were outdoors in Sumner when the quake struck observed the hillsides and cliff faces cascading rocks. 
  • Damage is significantly worse than from the original earthquake although on the Richter scale is was lesser - 6.3 this time.  This was due to the shallowness of the quake - about 5 kilometres, and its sharp jolting intensity.
  • A combination of liquefaction and burst pipes has contributed to flooding due to silt blocking storm-water drains.
It has been a shocking day.  Let's hope we can all get some sleep, especially those in Christchurch. Our thoughts and prayers are with you.

UPDATE ~ 22nd March 2011
The loss of major portions of Christchurch's architectural heritage is a source of considerable sadness:
  • Official video of damage to the Central Business District as screened at the memorial service of 18th March 2011.  It has no commentary.  The lack of civilians is due to this area remaining cordoned off to the public.  Note that the video is in three segments which load one after the other.  
Security camera footage of a partial building collapse - two separate videos from different angles (video link added 14th August 2011)


Gripping stories of earthquake survival:
  • David Hayward, a Christchurch writer, wrote this powerful account of his ordeal for the Guardian, which was published just hours after the event:  New Zealand Earthquake: 'There was a moment of silence. Then a wail of sirens'.  He wrote the article on his phone!
  • Pat Deavoll wrote in her blog the story of being in Sumner on that fateful day, and of her arduous journey home.
  • Vicki Anderson related her harrowing story of getting out of the  damaged Press building and the frantic time that followed in this article: "Reunited after the quake: mother and child"  The article was published on the Stuff website on 25th February 2011
  • Naomi Magee was also in the Press building but did not get out so easily.  She was trapped in a collapsed area of the building for five hours and did not expect to get out alive.  She was interviewed by TV3 as recorded in this clip which aired on the 24th February: Press building survivor tells her story
  • Included in that same clip is the story of Tara Snell who outran a falling building fa├žade in a burst of speed prompted by her friend's dog Honey, who was with them.  In this privately filmed clip we see the wall collapsed as they flee.
Other stories from those caught up in the chaos:
The Christchurch mayor tells of standing on a building-top balcony in the central city when the earthquake struck in this article published on the Stuff website on the 8th March 2011: Broken city haunts Christchurch mayor Bob Parker

Matthew Walker has written three articles about his experience of the quake and its aftermath in his blog Things no longer weigh what they used to.  In his writing he is lucid, carefully observant and heartfelt - as usual.  These are compelling reading.
His preceding article High Street, could well serve as a requiem for that city street, which Christchurch residents know so well.  In it Matthew notes the evidence of the previous earthquake. who could guess of the devastation to follow so swiftly and decisively on its heels.

We remember  those who did not survive:
I imagine that most New Zealanders know someone who died, or someone who knows someone who died.  I have written a separate tribute to Paul Dunlop, our family optometrist, who died in a building collapse.  I now know of the deaths of three other people who were connected to those close to me and expect to hear of more in the weeks ahead.

The official death toll at 17th March stands at 182 as noted in this article on the Stuff website.

These deaths were completely random - those killed were not doing anything risky or unusual.  It is a spectacular example of many people simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  How many people have since thanked their lucky stars that they were out at lunch at that time, or did not go to town that day after all, or..., or..., or....

However, after a week or two of living in a severely disrupted environment any euphoria about having survived is likely to have lessened considerably:
At this point a different toll emerges.  Life has to be resumed in something approximating normal, and the enduring difficulties of living an ordinary life amidst widespread devastation can be decidedly arduous.  Plain old grumpiness sets in as Vicki Anderson relates in this article published in Stuff on 17th March 2011: "Christchurch is grumpy"  I'm pleased to claim slight acquaintance with Vicki and can assure readers that ordinarily she is a lovely, mild mannered and peaceable person!

Those who are impatient with this description of city-wide moodiness might bear in mind that since the 22nd February, residents have experienced 648 quakes.  This was just as aftershocks from the September earthquake seemed to be subsiding.  Since the original earthquake last September they have endured a total of 5,553; that's right: five thousand, five hundred and fifty three - those of them who have stayed put.  

For many residents it has all been too much:
Not surprisingly a large number have packed their bags and headed for more stable ground and access to facilities which actually working properly.  An article in the ODT of 28th February states that at that point 50,000 residents had left the city. I have heard that this total has increased considerably since them. 

It's not just the on-going quakes that are wearing residents down, it's the damage to so many homes and workplaces; disruption to travel due to damaged roads which has made travel around the city very slow and frustrating; widespread lack of sewage services; and in some areas the patchy nature of other basic services such as power and water.  Loss of a number of the usual supermarkets has been a source of additional pressure and there has been a marked shortage of fresh produce.  Everyone is coping as best they can, service crews are working non-stop to restore roads and other basics, but all this takes time, a lot of time, and weeks stretch into months.  It will be years before the city gets properly back on its feet.  In a recent visit to Wellington even the stoically cheerful mayor, Bob Parker, remarked on the surprise he felt as he observed that everything there 'worked'.  I know others who feel the same.  In Christchurch the abnormal has become normal.  Everyone is tired.  All strength to you, Christchurch!  Lots of us are doing what we can to help.

Preparedness:  how prepared are you?
Here in Dunedin the land is stable for the moment.  I feel tremors from time to time, some of which register on the national GeoNet site, others which don't.  Earthquakes are part of life in New Zealand, but usually don't affect people all that much due to our fairly sparse population.  But all the same it's good to be prepared for eventualities.  The Civil Defence national website "Get Ready, Get Through" includes lots of essential information.  Let's be sensible: are you prepared?  Am I?  Well, partially, but more work needs to be done.  Time to get back to it.  This is not scaremongering, this is plain old sensible planning - a good way to get a little bit in charge of potential situations which are otherwise well out of our control.  In the event of a severe local earthquake a modicum of sensible preparation can go a long way. 

The New Zealand landmass is constantly changing but so little that we usually don't notice it.  Those who are interested to read more about this aspect of our history, and indeed that of our changing planet can read my earlier article New Zealand ~ land of earthquakes and volcanoes.

Readers can find more information in my subsequent article:
Christchurch ~ two months after the big quake ~ demolitions, cliff collapses, shipping containers and portaloos

All my articles about the Christchurch earthquakes and aftermath can be found via the page linked to below, or at the upper right of this screen:

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