September 2010

Aftershocks continue.  This morning I got trapped in the underground carpark when the 5.4 shock cut the power again.  Then our boiler sprung a leak and we were without water (thankfully only for a short while).  It’s amazing how the situation becomes rather blasé.  Especially when you’re still at work everyday.  Aftershocks stronger than 5?  Commonplace.


So just to spice things up Christchurch decided to have a massive earthquake.  As you do.  So I thought I’d briefly break my absence from the internet.  Sometime around 04.30 on Saturday morning (4th September) at the tail end of  a bad dream I woke to feel the room starting to move and then about 5 seconds later all hell broke loose with violent shaking, a roar from outside and general freakiness.  It was pretty scary and the whole thing lasted about a minute though the initial aftershocks continued for a few more.

One of things that amused me coming to NZ a few years ago was the ‘disaster planning’ adverts on TV explaining how to create a plan and stock emergency supplies.  ‘But surely NZ is one of the most passive countries in the world?’ I scoffed before also mocking the section at the back of the yellow pages offering specific advice on a range of possible natural and man-made catastrophes (‘in the event of a volcano do not move towards the lava…’).  I never really put much belief into the local tales of small quakes every now and then.

Last year however, we actually did put together an emergency swine/bird flu kit/food cache just in case the two strains did cross and suddenly the end of the world came about.  When this didn’t actually happen we just ate it all.  Foolish.  So in the early hours of Saturday morning we finally had an occasion to utilise my well thought out (and patiently listened to repeatedly by K) ‘zombie apocalypse survival plan’.  Kind of.

How are you supposed to run and get under a door frame when the ground won’t keep still?  We got petrol and food in the morning and whipped out my camping stove and had tea.  Reaching 7.1 on the Richter scale it was pretty powerful stuff (stronger than in Haiti recently) with no deaths but a huge amount of property damage and destruction.  There was a curfew yesterday overnight in the very centre (we fall just outside) and a strange quietness to the place.  Lots of people were milling around yesterday, talking to strangers and neighbours and sharing stories.  We didn’t get power until late in the evening but water had been running since lunch and got to sleep in our own bed after spending the evening with friends.

Thankfully we got off pretty lightly with just a broken coffee jug and a minor crack by the stairs.  We’re still having ongoing aftershocks (one of the recent shocks was 5.1 on the scale) though the general queasy sea-sick feeling I had yesterday seems to have gone.  Very strange sensation.  The only previous quake I’ve had was in Nepal in 2006 (5.3) where the bed felt like it was vibrating.  I missed the one in Folkestone (my home town) a few years back, being in California (of all places) at the time.

Weirdness all round and my thoughts are all over the place.  Looks like it’s going to take a while for things to settle but it could have been a lot worse.  Amusingly I got a worried and urgent phone call from my mum this morning (almost 30 hours post event) informing me there’d been an earthquake and was I ok?  Ha ha.  She needs to watch the news more.  More photos are here or you can follow breaking events here.


On a different but equally exciting note I met the Prime Minister last Friday at Burwood Hospital.  He wasn’t supposed to come to out ward but stopped off for a chat with the tea lady and then one of my patients stalked after him with her zimmer frame so he came back for a brief hello.  Opening gambit of, ‘yes I’m far shorter and less attractive in real life…’.  Nice.  Seemed extremely approachable and friendly with no airs or graces.  It should be one of those ‘thing to do in NZ’ eye spy tick boxes – meet the PM.

Right.  I’m off to sit quietly and try not to get too excited by the ground wobbling.