These days in Christchurch when you met up with a friend or family member there is only one topic of conversation, and that’s, the ‘Earthquake’!. To be woken up from a deep sleep, in the dark as we were on Saturday night, at four thirty am, just to experience an earthquake, it was truly alarming. The shaking just seemed to go on and on. I don’t know which was worse, the shaking which was very severe, or the roaring noise, and crashing of falling objects that accompanied it. Of course, the burglar alarm was blasting, as well as the Grandfather Clock in the hall it started to chime endlessly. I had screwed many heavy items in the home that looked ‘topheavy’ to the walls, this included the clock and liquor cabinet and it paid off. However it didn’t stop bottles from falling out and breaking. No good turning on the lights as the power supply was now off, as was the water supply for good measure, of course no phone. I have been told that main quake only lasted one minute but it seemed much longer than that. What a sight greeted me when I found a torch and ventured out into the rest of the house. Everything than could fall down had fallen down, and then proceed to migrate somewhere around each room. Broken glass was scattered everywhere but we were lucky as most of our damage was minor. One half hour later Mark and daughter Lynn were on my doorstep to inquire if I was OK. I think what contributed to our luck in that we suffered no major damage, was due more to the fact our house was sited on volcanic rock, than was the rest of the town, which was resting on saturated sand. This immediately reverted back to a bog, the state it had been for thousands of years until the early settlers had drained it, and turned it into a city. The sand with the motion had liquefied and this phenomena has caused much damage to roads, homes, and the infrastructure. Power poles can’t stand ‘upright’ in watery unstable ground. I went for a drive around the side of the Halswell stream when I visited my son, the road that follows the stream’s contours was slipping into it. The bridges had remained intact, but the road had slumped six to eight feet on each side of the bridges, there was no way you could cross the water. Large sections of the road and surrounding country had huge fissures, and some just went through houses if they were in the way


It was wonderful how everyone rallied to assist. Something totally unexpected was a call from WINZ or an allied Government Department, They were checking up on every one living alone. Was I safe, and was there anything I needed? I thanked them for their concern, told them I was well supported by my family. Later I called the family out at the farm when the phone service was restored. I was surprised when my daughter in law, who is normally a strong character, burst into tears. I decided to make a visit if I could. Before I set out, I made a trip to the nearest supermarket to take out a food parcel. What a surprise that was. In the store, everyone and his uncle was there filling up their trolleys as if there was no tomorrow. I was able to pick up a cooked chicken, cooked ham, salad, fresh bread etc. I couldn’t have made a better gesture. Later, they had invited others in and had a meal on Grandfather. They called me at 9-00pm to thank me


This quake was the same strength as what had hit Haiti and Napier. Those quakes did massive damage too but had killed many hundred of thousands people, caused extensive property damage. It would seem that we owe a vote of thanks to the authorities, who over the years have forced us to conform to a very stringent building codes to protect us from seismic events. However we are saddled with many Historic Edifices, all of which all have protection orders on them, and what work on them you can carry out is restricted. It’s very nice to preserve the past, they give a city character, but these are an expensive indulgences. In another way, they can kill you. We were fortunate too that there was few people about, either at work, or walking the streets when we were struck at 4-39am.


Ever since the quake we have been getting reminders in the form of what is called ‘After Shocks’. These have amounted to some hundred or other. They could be described from a mild swaying to a very vicious shake. Someone said it was like the hand of God lifting your home and dropping it.


Years ago when we lived at Milton we actually witnessed an earthquake. We were eating lunch outside and suddenly my mother stood up and said she was having a bad turn and she clutched the table for support. Looking beyond her, and across the Milton plains, we saw to our amazement large ‘land waves’ coming from the North. These waves were made up from the paddocks, road, trees and the Tokoiti River. I have never been able to regard the Earth as something solid again.


You can’t but feel sorry for some people. Some have lost their all, and some come through completely unscathed. Beth gave me the best Father’s Day present ever, she spent the day cleaning the mess in the kitchen and pantry and lounge. Pickled walnuts, wine, porridge, make a real gooey mess. If it was made of glass it broke. After the last ‘after shock’ everything has fallen down again, but all the messy stuff was no longer around to compound the problem. I no longer take a glass of water to my bedside table. I now take a bottle of water with a screw top.


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