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Published: February 24th 2011
Earthquake report. Written 24 Feb. 11 Thursday
Hello dear family and friends
I know you will have been waiting for more news from me since the earthquake struck Christchurch on Tuesday ..but as you will understand in the chaos there has been major disruption to all communications. We did have some mobile phone access we thought and tried to send quick messages to some of you to say we were okay. We then found later next day that some of those messages didn’t go through . But in any case the mobile phones have been a lifeline. It was the one day I actually did not have my phones with me …Marilyn ( my cousin) and Terry had just arrived in Christchurch on Monday afternoon…I picked them up and they were staying with me at Diane and Dave…thankfully we were all together.
So Tuesday morning as we had brekki we felt a small earthquake tremor and Dave said “ did the earth move”… we laughed!!!! I got on line and found out it had been a 3.1 – so at that point in time I was feeling quite ok that I had felt a quake.
So the 3 of us went off in to car to the city and found a nice parking space beside the Botanic Gardens… Marilyn’s fotos tell the story ( will put them on later)– I already have lots of fotos of Christchurch so I didn’t take any…so we wandered down past the art centre , she was taking fotos of the statues, the tram, over the bridge , the double decker bus, Captain Scott’s statue – into the Cathedral square there are fotos of the cathedral with Terry and I standing outside , the floral displays of deer and an elephant and the Christchurch Chalice.
So into the cathedral we went and Marilyn continued to take fotos inside …beautiful ceiling and wood in the Maori chapel, tiles panels, flags, stained glass … we marvelled that the Sept 4 earthquake hadn’t done too much damage there and then out we went through the visitors shop – this was actually about 5 mins before the Quake hit . We spotted a postshop in the adjacent road and I had Lisa’s and Liam’s birthday cards to post as well as a couple of postcards – so off we went and got some stamps and popped them in the post box outside. Marilyn had said she wanted to get some leggings so I said lets pop in the Farmers Dept store over the road. In we went never suspecting what would happen in the next 2 minutes…we had looked at some things and were just moving out and were in a wider aisle when there was this terrible rumbling noise and then floor was moving and I was saying get down and in any case we couldn’t actually stand up we were hanging on to each other and came down to the floor. I will never forget Terry’s face at that time – total disbelief. Lights were out and everything was crashing around us in the store- but nothing hit us. The floor tiles were flipping up…terrifying and horrible. When the movement stopped – we think it went on for about a minute- we just said we had to get out of the store and staff were telling people to get out- we were very near the exit. We came out and all I could see at first was clouds of dust and smoke – it was like a scene from 9/11 – that’s when I think I realised how bad it must have been …we were all trying to get into the middle of the street away from the buildings- there was a weird sort of eerie silence but at the same time there was crashing of glass - everyone was stunned but there was calm and no panic. Across the road where we had just posted the cards the fronts of the building had come down ( so I doubt if Lisa and the others will ever get their cards). We then thought it would be best to get into an open space and headed back a few metres to the cathedral square and to our horror saw that the cathedral that we had been in about 5 mins before was destroyed. My first fotos taken of the destruction are taken at 12.56 – 5 mins after the quake. We were so shocked but also realised that we had been so lucky and now we had to find a way to stay safe. Thank goodness that Marilyn and Terry were with me. There was a second bad shockwave a few mins later while when were in the Cathedral square and more glass windows came crashing down nearby- a very nice woman came and talked to us to ask if we were ok as Marilyn was in such shock she couldn’t stop shaking…this lady told us there would be more aftershocks and suggested we walk to the nearby Victoria Park – as it was a better open space with trees ..so we kept to the centre of the road with everyone else and went into the park. Along the road we could see car demolished buried under the rubble- huge cracks in the road with places where the tarmac was lifted up- then also we could see the liquefaction process happening – this is where the earth has being liquefied and water forced up with it and it comes up through cracks like bubbling volcanoes and piles up all over the place.
We spent about 3 hours in the park with lots of other people – sirens going around us, the river going by was swirling fast with muddy water and the level was raised right up– there was liquefaction everywhere bubbling up… the statue of Capt Cook stood firm however watching over us and it seemed rather incongruous to see pretty paper lanterns hanging in the trees by the river. But there is always some “black” humour in these situations … and By this time Marilyn and I were dying to go the the loo and another lady we spoke to ( everyone was so helpful and kind) said we would have to turn the trees into toilets soon. So we had to find a sheltered spot between a very cracked pillar of the bridge and a flower bed and tree. Of course there had to be another aftershock at this moment and as Marilyn held up my jacket in front of me the ground was shaking I was peeing and she was saying for gods sake cant you pee a bit quicker… it made us laugh in the midst of all the horror that we girls had to do what we had to do.
After all this time some people were starting to begin to walk to get away from the city centre – so we consulted a police officer and he told us a rouet to begin walking to keep away from the worst of the devastation…(and at this point we hadn’t been able to contact Diane and Dave because stupidly I had left my phones at their place and of course M and T didnt have their numbers in their phones) – it would have taken us several hours to walk back – but then as we walked past where the car was we found that road quite clear and the car untouched – so more consulting a police officer and he told us how to drive back. It was a very slow drive back with many other people making their way from the city centre to the suburbs….and as.Terry drove he had to watch out for huge cracks, massive potholes and this bubbling mud stuff everywhere….and of course as we approached bridges and overpasses I was saying don’t drive onto or under until we could exit …. So we finally made it back to Cashmere where Diane and Dave live – and of course they were so relieved we were ok as they had been trying to call me but I didn’t have the phones!!!! And we were relieved that their house was still standing and that Dave and Diane were ok cos she had been at work in her library at Sumner which was near the epicentre. Many of the neighbours houses were shattered and so they all congregated at Dave’s – and he is such a great guy who is a real Mr Fixit – and he came up trumps in this situation with a generator so we could watch TV and know what had been going on, we had water , we had the bbq to cook food – and all the neighbours brought their food contributions so we got it all put together…as it got dark we lit lamps, got out torches. One 80 yr old was persuaded to stay with us and out came a spare mattress. And so we spent our long night with many many aftershocks, lying in bed with all our clothes on, torches and phones in pockets ready to get out if necessary…we seemed to get the shocks about every 10 mins or so – some of them very loud noises and the whole house shaking…and you could feel the waves coming and going as I hung onto the bedhead. I can tell you there was a lot of expletives being uttered – never used the “F” word so much!!!! Probably after about 3am we got a bit of sleep as the shocks seemed to die down a bit.
So as we got up in the morning we had to make a decision as hard as it was to leave eevryone – and Dave had arranged for us to borrow his car fortunately as we would never had been able to rent one. And as there was no water or electric supplies or waste water ( Dave came up trumps again with a portaloo) we also realised that we were just another burden on the stretched resources. So we had a change of plan as to direction to drive and go directly south as it might be easier to find accommodation and diesel for the car too. So off we went and almost out of fuel at last we got to a garage that was open and had to queue for quite a while but did get filled up – but I must say the garage people were so well organised making pople queue and directing them to pumps and getting them thru as quick as poss.
I think the first couple of little towns we went through all the motels had No Vacancy signs up – so I was a bit worried – and looked in my tourist guide book found a campsite which had cabins –at a little town called Geraldine which is a bit more inland and on the way to Wanaka which was to be our final destination anyway….and thankfully when I called them they were very helpful and found us a little studio unit for the 3 of us. So at last we could have a shower, change our clothes, flush the loo, boil a kettle, fill a glass of water …all things we normally take for granted. There were still come aftershocks being felt there 100km from Christchurch– but these were more like small tremors . But we ate a good steak diner with a bottle of bubbly and slept like babies and felt more like normal after a good night sleep.
And so to today – the sun shone and we drove here to Wanaka having booked another cabin …we had a lovely day – with a picnic at the foot of Mount Cook…however this all seems rather unreal to be acting rather normally when we almost died 2 days ago.
We cannot believe how lucky we were when we see that already the death toll is 98 and 22 still missing in cathedral and many more missing – probably dead. That we were in the cathedral only about 5 mins before the quake and also standing on the pavement at the post box – a few minutes earlier and we could now be killed…such is life – the randomness is astonishing and hard to believe. We heard 2 of the dead announced today are babies… It is also so sad and terrible for all the people of Christchurch who have to re-build their shattered lives and right now live in the most appalling conditions….added to which is the constant threat of further aftershocks – even today there have been several more than 4 on the Richter scale…they must be so shattered – it is almost impossible to sleep when every so often there is an aftershock….and the unpredictability is so wearing and we were only there a day.
Well this has been both so emotional and cathartic to write – and will act as a record for myself – but right now I can’t write any more and I don’t feel I can post fotos….but I will do later .
I suppose everyone is seeing the scenes on tv –it really is terrible destruction of the whole city and I would just say if you feel you can make a donation to help the people of Christchurch please do and I am sure there is some way of doing it.
Here we are safe in Wanaka and thankful to be alive.
Sending you all much love.
Lynne and Marilyn and Terry. xxx
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