Thursday, 24 February 2011

The low down.

The earthquake we had on September 4th last year and the thousands of aftershocks were only practice. At the time, I thought it was frightening, horrible, I was so adrenalised. But it had nothing on Tuesday's quake. Nothing has been so terrifying.

I was in our living room, while Clem was asleep upstairs. When it hit the noise was deafening, there was no time to get under doorways, or seek cover, all I could do was throw myself down in a corner and wait. All I could hear was the sound of bricks and glass smashing, and the rock beneath us moving, and it was loud. Boo took one look at me, and leapt from the sliding door - sprinting off into the distance (a neighbour later reported her bolting past their house flat out immediately after the quake). I have no idea how long it lasted, but when it stopped, there was dirt and dust everywhere, I could hardly see. Glancing out the window, the whole CBD was sending up clouds of dust as buildings collapsed.


I raced upstairs to Clem - spotting all the bricks outside which had obviously fallen from the wall of his bedroom. I half expected to open his door and find that I could see daylight through the wall, but fortunately the gib-board was still intact. He was fine.

I whipped him downstairs, and grabbed my phone to text Matt. Fortunately we got through to each other - he was running the 5.5km home from town (his three other workmates also ran home - one all the way to Sumner, about 13km). His building stood up to the quake, but it is just beside the Pyne Gould building which collapsed, so he knew the potential extent of the damage long before the media did.

Then I waited. Aftershocks came thick and fast. I took some photos of the damage, and grabbed the video and took a few seconds out the back door:

I have never seen Matt look so terrified when he arrived home - he was wet from wading through the water the burst into the street outside his office, he was puffing from the sprint home. He knew people had died, whereas everyone on our street wasn't sure. The radio reports said it was a big quake, and there may be casualties, but even they didn't have any first hand information. Matt knew how bad it was going to be.

With our house potentially unstable, and no water or power, we grabbed some things and left. I wasn't sure if Pot (the cat) was inside or not, but left some food out for her.

We traveled to my parents' house - normally a 15 minute car ride, it took around an hour. Liquefaction was causing silt and mud to bubble over the roads, which were also cracked and warped. We saw men wearing suits, covered in dust walking home from work.

This side of town is a different world, the streets are fine, and there is no obvious damage. We have power and water. The aftershocks feel like gentle rolling motions, as this house is on an old riverbed which absorbs much of the movement (I have felt at least two, but I think it is three aftershocks since I started writing this). We can sleep, we have plenty of food and we are warm. Not to mention incredibly lucky. At this point no-one we can think of is missing, however we will undoubtedly know some of the 300+ victims in some capacity.

Boo was found several kilometres from home later that evening (cowering under some bushes in someone's garden). Pot hasn't been seen since, I am hoping she is holed up somewhere, and am going back to the house daily to check for her.

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