Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Our Beautiful City in Ruins- remembering Feb 22.

It certainly has been a momentous week here in Christchurch.Last Tuesdays 6.3 earthquake has left our beautiful city in ruins and so far 155 people dead. It is devastating for so many people who are still waiting and hoping for a miracle- that more loved ones will emerge from the rubble alive. We are all waiting and hoping for that but as each day passes it seems less and less likely...

We were totally unscathed at our house and are so lucky that Simon was okay. His building looks out to the cathedral in the Square- he has floor to ceiling windows pretty much and saw the cathedral fall and the chancery lane next to his office. He was pretty shaken up as you would expect- i was just so glad when we walked through that door at 4.30pm!! It had taken him from 12.51pm till then to make his way home.

I was at home on the computer- Hollie safely in bed and the girls at school and preschool when the earthquake hit. It was definitely alot smaller than the 7.1 in Sept and didn't feel as strong in Hornby where i live. Not enough to terrify me this time or make me faint! It made me get up and stand in the doorway though and the cat and i watched the pool go slosh slosh out each end and take a minute or so for the water to stop moving. It really didn't feel that bad to me where i live - i thought it must be a 5.5 or something so when i checked on Geonet i was surprised when it said 6.3.

My neighbour came over with her son and was really upset- she rushed off to school to collect her daughter straight away- practical me rang the school and they told me the children were all okay and that i didn't need to come and collect them. Lucy's preschool did want me to come so i woke up Hollie- she sleeps through everything- and we went to Sockburn to collect Lucy. A 10 minute ride there and back took me an hour or more- the traffic on the roads was incredible- everyone rushing to get home to check their houses and people collecting children. Lucy was fine and just laughed it off and wondered what everyone else was crying and upset for!!

Luckily my neighbour was back so i was able to leave Lucy and Hollie with her while i went to the school to collect my big girls. I knew that i wouldn't be able to drive- it was absolutely blocked on the roads so i walked ran down. Ella was annoyed that i hadnt come to collect her straightaway since others had already gone home and she didnt want to be at school!! Zoe was one of 2 left in her class- so i felt abit mean but i couldn't have gotten there any earlier than i did in any case and both girls were fine and not upset. Zoe's teacher said it was probably better not to rush to collect her as it dramatised it too much and upset the children more!! While i was there another big aftershock hit - a 5.7 which felt big- that one even made me get under a desk. You get used to feeling them at home but it feels so different when you are out of your usual space. Ella didn't even move and stayed standing - playing with her umbrella!! She is completely unfazed by it all like Lucy and Hollie. Maybe us being quite calm and philosophical about it all has helped !!

It is incredibly sad to see our beautiful city in ruins- our cathedral fallen and 25% of our CBD needing to be demolished and rebuilt. A national emergency is in place and the CBD is out of bounds guarded by army and tanks till it is safe to reenter.

More than this though is the devastating loss of life- we were all so incredulous last time that noone died- this time we were not so lucky. A different faultline only 10km from the central city at a busy time of day when thousands of office workers were at work and on their lunchbreak- tourists and people walking in the streets meant that the death toll would be high. Although this earthquake was lower on the richter scale- at a 6.3- it was closer to town and shallower so did alot more damage. Simon said it felt more like an 8.

Images of shopfronts collapsing on people and buses and cars flattened by falling masonry- as well as the collapsed Pyne Gould Building and the completely flattened CTV building will stay with me forever. It was like a miracle everytime that the amazing USR guys found and rescued people from the rubble. The PG Building they managed to save about 25 people i believe- the CTV building had about 150 people in the buiding when the 4 floors collapsed to a singlelevel and started to burn. It was amazing that some people were rescued when you see the damage. There are heartbreaking stories of people texting from the rubble saying that they were alive and asking to be rescued- particulalry the English Language students from Japan and China- that were not found in time.

What has been uplifting though is the support and love that we have all received from fellow New Zealanders and from overseas. There is a huge Australian presence in Christchurch both army and Search and Rescue teams- they were overwhelmed when they were applauded when they arrived at the airport. Rescue teams have also been sent from China and Japan and Singapore- the Us and of course Great Britain. It means so much to all of us Cantabrians to see so many people working to save our people!! The thousnads of students who have called themselves the student army are helping to clear the streets- beautiful stuff.

While we were relatively unscathed- most of Christchurch had no power- no water - and no sewerage at all. Power and phone lines and water cables were pretty much destroyed in the CBD. It will take weeks and months to either repair or rebuild them. About 85% of CHCH has power now a week later- alot of people in New Brighton, Sumner and the eastern suburbs still do not. There are thousands of portaloos lining the streets again- liquifaction on our roads- huge piles of mud and silt everywhere that needs to be cleaned away.

Just now a big aftershock has come through- the whole house has shaken and windows rattling- that must be a 5 for sure. You just hope that town is okay when you feel those ones come through. ( a 4.6- on the Greendale fault- the sept line so town should be okay)

Simon has been busy working helping to set up new sites for Gen-i - the corporate arm of Telecom- they obviously can't get into their buildings in town like the other 50,000 workers- so he has been setting up muliple locations outside the CBD. It will be months before the central city will reopen- the economy is going to struggle- how do you relocate the whole CBD?

It has been a huge blow for Canterbury- now we may lose the rugby world cup as well as hotels and the CBD are destroyed. Thousands of people have left Canterbury - they estimate 50,000 in one week- some may never come back...

Things certainly seem bleak right now-it has been called New Zealands darkest day-they estimate that 240 people will have died- they are still recovering bodies- my heart goes out to those families that are still waiting for their loved ones.

It certainly makes you appreciate your friends and family- as i explained to the girls we are so lucky- daddy was in town and could have been killed- (what if he had been out on a lunch break?) we are so lucky that daddy came home- some childrens daddies didnt come home that night. A sobering thought for me and them.

I hope that all of my fellow cantabrians are faring okay and getting the help they need-



Mrs Frizz said...

The lives of so many have been changed for ever ... a terrible tragedy.

Happy to hear that you are safe!

Rochelle said...

Glad to hear you and your family are all ok.. Sucha relief that Simon was safe and arrived home even if slowly. It felt bigger than the Sept one for me but I was in Cashmere at the time. Take care and catch up soon :)