Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Christchurch Earthquake - One month on looking back….

As I start writing this it is 2 hours till the 1 month period.  We’re 1 month closer to Christmas but who really thinks about that and who cares.

Is life back to normal? Well that depends on the definition.  Although Mr12 is being bussed to another school, both kids are back at school and their social activities are up and running and that gives them some regularity and certainty.

The motel continues to run and we have transformed from being only minutes from the best of Christchurch to being the closest to the devastated Red Zone!  People here for the recovery make up the majority of our guests now.

It’s quiet in this part of town with little or no traffic but there is the occasional roar as another truckload of central Christchurch rolls past on its way out of town.
When this was taken I didn't know that in 6 hours our Cathedral Spire 
would be lying on the ground

So what happened to us that fateful day?  What were we doing at 12.51pm?

Jeff was in room 12, you know the one, its our banner room on our homepage.  I was up there with one of our housekeepers checking the room.  I was standing right by the corner of the bed in the photo and our housekeeper was by the lazy-boy.  All I could do was brace against the bed and listen and watch. Behind me everything was flying out of the cupboards and drawers. I kept an eye on the wall and ceiling joints, guessing that that would be the first place to give way.  This was different from the September quake, this time I knew it was real.

September was a jiggy jiggy quake. Sure the fault line moved but it moved nicely, politely.  There was lots of jigging up & down but not much sideways movement.  This time was different.  It was a violent East-West movement and the kickbacks were incredible – that anything could be shaken like that was amazing.  As the quake eased off our housekeeper and I rushed outside and when we got to the carpark the ground was still moving.  Naomi came running out from the garage area.  She had been in the lounge and took cover under the table, holding onto the table leg.  Naomi later related that it was like being on the earthquake machine in Japan.  When we tried them in Japan we always thought it was not real but this time it was very close to the experience the earthquake machine provided.  In amongst the natural anger, we were learning.
Microwaves, plates, everything went flying....

In the carpark, we could hear alarms going off everywhere and we could also hear the hiss of gas.  There were bottles leaking gas nearby.  Due to the danger we got everyone out of the motel building and out to the gate.  The ground was continuously rumbling and one of our potplant cactus keep rolling around the carpark!

After one major quake and 6 months of aftershocks we knew what had happened and we knew it was bad.  People leaving the city centre told stories of the cathedral being down and the destruction of the inner city - people being crushed to death, crushed buses were mentioned.     

Tables, chairs, anything not fixed went flying 

Staff and guests were all ok…next was the family.  A quick call to Jeff’s M&D revealed they were ok but shaken.  Next was the kids at school.  That day at 12.51pm, mr12 would be at school but mr15 had the day off due to a teachers strike….he could be anywhere.  By this time the phone lines were becoming paralysed, it was 3 hours before we heard from them.  Of course we were worried and it was great to hear they were still alive.  We followed the “stay put” principle.  They could be anywhere and chasing them could be useless.  They knew we would be at home waiting for them and they came home.  Being kids they were excited amongst such horror and we followed their lead, not wanting to deny their feelings.

To be honest, after that there was not much to do, we still had guests, we still had rooms, we were still in business and we were alive. We once again began the recovery.

Soon after the quake, being able to see the BNZ building means the Cathedral Spire is not there.  The crane is starting the rescue from the Forrsyth Barr Building.

Writing this 1 month later, the urgency and the passion is not here so I refer to an email we began sending out that night to people asking if we were ok.  It reflects a weird mixture of devastation and hope held up by ignorance – at that stage we just did not know how bad it was.

Thanks for the email and your kind thoughts.  We really do appreciate them and we do need them.  Our beautiful city is a mess, the Cathedral Spire is down, 65 are confirmed dead and many are still trapped in collapsed buildings.  Over 1000 people are sleeping in Hagley Park but at least the big tents are up for the Flower Show and they are out of the rain.
We are shaken but safe.  The Motel is structurally sound and we have power but no water 10 hours after the quake.  We should be back to normal in a day or two and we are thankful for that.  It is the wider city area and those trapped, injured and dead that our hearts go out to.  
The residence kitchen.....

In a word, it was massive, much bigger than the 4 Sep quake.  In that quake we did not have any damage in the rooms but this time we lost 95% of our plates, cups and glasses and a few other things will require repairing.  We will need a massive shopping trip but we should be back to normal in a day or two!
In September the quake was 30kms away and a magnitude 7.1.  This time it was situated pretty much under Lyttelton and it was only 5km deep.  The magnitude was only 6.3 but the shallowness and closeness made the result so much worse.
Just as we thought things were getting better after 4 Sep., we are back at step 0.  Tomorrow we take step 1, and then step 2.  One step at a time till we get back to normal again.
Thanks for thinking of us! We really appreciate it.

The night after the quake, towm is black but the lights on top og the Forsyth Barr building shine ominously, the next night they were dark......


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