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Monday, March 28, 2011

An Author's Story of the Christchurch Earthquake

The biggest after-shock in the world, perhaps -- the Christchurch quake of 22 February 2011 

Animal-friend and historical fiction writer Beverley Broad (West Coast Reins, Fool's Gold, Erupting Lies, Ostrich chick hatching and raising in New Zealand: a practical guide) sent me an evocative account of how she heard the news of the quake, and what followed afterward.

As Bev tells the story, she was coming out of the surf at Tauranga, when her hostess ran out with the news that she had just received a phone call.

As she goes on to say, “I knew straight away from her face that it was Christchurch and the most awful ice-cold hand clenched my heart even before she turned on the TV and we watched in horror our beautiful city falling to its knees.

I still cannot decide which is worse, actually suffering the terror of enduring the two and a half minute 7.2 in the dark on the morning of 4th Sept, or being so far away and unable to find our children in the carnage of the 22nd Feb. All telephone links were lost, and to make things worse I had a new cell phone that I wasn’t familiar with and I just could not even see it through my tears let alone make it work with my shaking fingers. Eventually I managed to contact Lucy our daughter in law in Wellington and she acted as a go between for messages. She was able to tell me that Nicola was safe at the school with her kids, but we could not find Rebecca or her family. And of course they had gone to lunch downtown to celebrate their wedding anniversary.

But Arron was late! Too long in the shower! So they decided against the inner city restaurant and were just getting out of the car when they looked up Manchester St and saw clouds of dust as buildings toppled, they did a frantic U turn and headed for the hills where the kids were at school. Rebecca said the drive was diabolical, cracks opened up, mud and water gushed, and the tar seal rippled like a rug being shaken. Rebecca ran into the classroom narrowly missing a brick wall falling on her, found the kids, then got them home. They put up a tent on the lawn and Nicola and family came to share it, they were all still sleeping in it when we got home.
Lucy had managed to get us a flight to Christchurch along with a plane-load of Govt. officials. We flew in with a case-load of food, bread and milk, as at that point essential supplies were critical and queuing for what shops were open, hours long.
At the Animal and Bird Hospital the girls were heroically trying to keep the clinic open with, initially no power, water or sewerage. To date the first 2 have been restored, but sewerage is a long time away; there are portaloos lining all the streets and all water must be boiled. Initially animals coming for help got it free as there was no money and no eftpos. The girls did what they could; common injuries were dogs left locked inside who had ripped out claws and worn their teeth to bleeding gums trying to claw or chew their way out. Mostly their traumatised owners just needed to talk, as everyone did.
We watched in horrified awe as the tsunami rolled over Japan. Tears poured down my cheeks as I watched the clip of the shaking and heard that dreadfully familiar cacophony of sound, and relived that awful few moments on 4 Sept. I had to look around the room and reassure myself that it was not happening again. I had to turn off the TV in the end; it is just too raw and traumatising, especially knowing we are getting so many earthquakes just off shore out from New Brighton beach where we used to live on Marine Parade. So far they have thankfully all been of a small magnitude, but only 5 ks deep and one cannot but help ask “What if….”
What is Christchurch’s future you are probably asking?
I just don’t know, but I will keep you posted.

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