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[personal profile] cataragon

And now I know what a 7.1 magnitude earthquake feels like (FYI: It's not pleasant). And a 5.1, 4.8, 3.5, etc etc etc. I'm not certain, but I think the aftershocks have covered everything from 3 to 5, all of which it appears I can sleep through, if very exhausted.

We live in a three story concrete slab house in a row of similar buildings. They have warehouse and commercial space on the first floor, living on the second and open loft space on the third. Being on the second floor appears to have cushioned us from some of the rough jerkiness, but added an exciting swaying factor. And when I say 'exciting' I mean 'fucking terrifying'.

It hit at 4:35 am and lasted about 40 seconds, I believe, but it felt like an eternity, and in the middle of it, I really thought the building was coming down, and we were going to die. This was probably aided by the sound of the bookshelf in the next room pulling it's screws out of the wall and strewing it's entire contents, including appliances and crockery, across the living room, but you could hear rumbling sounds as well.

The power cut pretty much immediately. I know this, because my CPAP stopped. We evacuated with my sister-in-law and her partner, who we live with, to the carpark, as we had concerns about the structural integrity of the building (as it turned out completely unfounded, but in the dark, with our only glimpses of the damage the state of the living room, not insane)

I was mostly okay, until I (agan, mistakenly but understandably) reached the conclusion it was the Alpine fault letting go, and started worrying about my family, who live much much closer to it than us. I made a trip back into the house to grab a jacket, my CPAP, painkillers and a bra (the idea of going without any of these for a significant time was hideous). The first aftershock happened as I did so, so I ran back down the stairs.
It's possibly worth pointing out at this point that I'd been in bed with a nasty throat infection for over a week, and this was only the second (third, now) time I'd left the house. I'd had 60mg of codeine and some other painkillers recently, and had also had no sleep, having just settled into bed to try for some before the quake hit. I continued to cough horridly and uncontrollably for most of the night/morning, pulling something in my rib area.

My cell wasn't getting coverage. Then it did. We called my parents, to discover my father had slept through the much lighter shake there (he later said he thought maybe I was being a bit dramatic, calling to check on them, at the time, but not once he realised what Christchurch had been like).

We tried to get hold of Dan's grandfather, who is in his 80s and lives alone and couldn't. My sister-in-law's partner couldn't get his family either, and we didn't want to go back inside, so we went to check on them. The cat was safely deposited in the Transit van, with food.
Checking turned out to be a good idea, as Dan's grandfather was quite shaken up, and my sister-in law and her partner (whose birthday it is, just for the record) found his parents still had power, so that was a good base of operations for them.
Dan and I were also looking after Dan's parent's place, so we came to check on that, which was surreal, as in Westmorland there was almost no damage at all. Their house has some magazines out of place, and some lightly disturbed ornaments. Both cats were missing, but Fred showed up.

All this time I'd been clinging to my Blackberry, mainlining Twitter accounts, and texting friends (in Christchurch to ask if they were okay, out of Christchurch to make sure they knew we were okay). Info on the radio was difficult to find, mostly coming from people calling into talk shows. Everything coming in then sounded awful, but most of the streets we'd been driving looked mostly okay, just no power (this is because we were driving on the south side of town, which is less damaged, and it was dark, so we couldn't see the more minor stuff). Twitter told me the earthquake was 7.3, and hit 30kms west of Christchurch, 30 kms deep.

We called Samoa, where Dan's parents are holidaying, and left a message.
As it got light, we drove home again (finding a brand new and impromptu judder bar in the road on the way), and inspected things. Relieved to discover very little damage, and building structurally sound. Water, no power. We retreated back up the hill to Dan's parent's place, thinking it might get power quicker.

I switch from Blackberry to Vodem stick and laptop, and gather more info (this process, in any situation, usually makes me feel better). I possibly shouldn't have been using the cell towers for that, but coverage had been pretty good, and this was before they started warning not to.
We get a text telling us power is back at home, so we return.

Aftershocks continue. Information keeps coming in. It wasn't the Alpine fault (which is still predicted to go 8.0+ sometime in the next 40 or so years. So maybe we're lucky we got a sort of non lethal practice run). It's downgraded to a 7.1, but they revise the depth shallower. It gets more and more surreal - the juxtaposition of the magnitude, and some of the damage, and the rest of the relative normality, and the fact that the entire district appears to have somehow come through a 7.1 without a fatality and with very few serious casualties. We appear front and center on international news sites, and trend on twitter. The disconnect is completely bizarre. I try and nap, but aftershocks keep waking me up. I have a spa, since the spa is okay but short a bit of water. I'm completely sleep deprived and have had more codiene - it's incredibly surreal. The day is sunny and still, and would have been completely delightful in other circumstances. There's a small aftershock while I'm in there, and there are waves. I try and nap again, and am a little more successful, but get woken concurrently by a phone call and another aftershock.

Friends of my sister-in-law show up to stay over with their dogs, as their house has no water, no power, and the chimney fell through the roof.
We eat steak for dinner. Everything is eerily normal, except for ongoing aftershocks. I talk to some people via Skype, and with my family via cell. I finally muster up the courage to go to sleep about 11pm, at which point I've had a rough 2 hour nap as the only sleep in 36 hours. I sleep through the night, through a 5.1 aftershock. Go me.

Today has been surreal again. George showed up back at home at Westmorland. I had to go to the Dr, as I needed a second bout of antibiotics for my throat infection. We checked on the house we own but no longer live in (fine, probably, needs it's tile roof and suspiciously cracked concrete chimney checked though). We drove through the streets, and found the damage somewhat random and eerie. An entire suburb near us is pretty much fine, except a commercial building that's lost a wall. All around us the houses and warehouse/accommodations are fine, but literally 5 minutes walk away, in Woolston on Ferry Road, there are commercial buildings all ruiny and closed off. There are whole streets in Merivale/St Albans where you can look down the street at a perfect row of toppled chimneys, and some commercial buildings that have literally collapsed.

There's more on the news and all over the internet. I find the destruction of historic buildings, like Homebush and Godley House upsetting, even though it's pretty much inevitable. I watched a security video of night stock and bakery staff in a supermarket running as the shelves throw product across the aisles. It looks a bit like an Indiana Jones movie. The pictures from the University of Canterbury Library, where they say a million books are on the floor, made me cry. I think it's because I'm so attached - I've spent so much time there, and it's always been a sort of haven within a haven for me. And libaries are sacred, right?

A line in someone's blog made me cry yesterday too Kia kaha Otautahi (be strong, Christchurch). I think it made it personal, somehow, that Kiwi touch, Te Reo, that phrase. It's real, it's here, it really happened.

I smiled, though, at the Alvarados website which states "ALVARADOS IS UNDER NEW MANAGEMENT (and has been totally remodelled). Was a must for authentic traditional style Mexican Cuisine. New menu out now! (if you find it blowing around on the street, could you return it please?) Was fully licensed and BYO (wine only).Was open Tuesday - Saturday from 5.30pm. Alfresco dining apparently isn't an option. Something to do with the lack of access, water, power and hygiene."
Oddly, all the Mexican restaurants in Christchurch seem to have been in destroyed buildings.
There's a picture somewhere too, of the Cheesemonger man (of Canterbury Cheesemongers) standing outside his shop with his blackboard, where they put info and witty things, and it says something like "Our shop took 8+ years to build, we have four good walls, please don't destroy us because of the neighbouring buildings".

I'm not as anxious as I thought I would be in a situation like this. I kind of live in fear of terrible things normally, but when one really happens, it's already happened, and you just have to deal with it as best you can. I was a bit jumpy at aftershocks yesterday, but I hadn't had much sleep. Today I've gotten used to them. It's insane how blase you can get.

The response has been awesome. Emergency services have been quick, efficient and as caring as possible, as far as I can tell. Businesses have made donations, given clients breaks, given away free things, all that sort of thing. Ordinary people have responded awesomely too, lots of good neighbouring and very little taking advantage of the situation (there was some talk of looting, but scuttlebutt is that it was actually like a couple of people who decided to throw bricks into a liquor store and nick off with some beer. There may have been more, but I doubt there was much at all). Everyone I've seen or talked to or been around has had a very....Kiwi response to it all. There is a massive sense of relief, too. Everyone knows it could have been much worse, and I think was at some point expecting it to be.

If I lie in my bed, with my laptop in front of me, and play a game, the world feels, effectively, as if nothing is any different than it was on Friday. That almost makes it harder.
Because it isn't the same, at all.
We're boiling water, and conserving water and power and people I know are possibly going to lose their houses, and places I know intimately and love dearly are changed or gone. The army are visibly but discreetly patrolling, the whole of the central city is closed off, and there are whole suburbs where liquification of the ground is a problem, sinkholes are all over the place and roads have buckled. Schools are closed, the university is closed, businesses are closed, buses aren't running.
They say we can expect aftershocks, possibly up to 6 magnitude for the next week.

It was and is awful, but one doesn't feel one can complain, both because we personally got off lightly, but also because, for all the devastation and the damage, so did the city. This adds to the surreality. A city of 400,000 people, and the surrounding area, just went through a 7.1 earthquake, and no-one died. That's ridiculous. Good ridiculous, but ridiculous nonetheless.
Timing (everyone in bed), good building codes, a massive helping of luck.

It's all bittersweet. Things stayed up, mostly. We're all still alive. But a lot is gone, or damaged, and will take a long time to fix. I don't think Christchurch will ever quite be the same.

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cataragon

September 2010

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