6 March 2011
Well last night was interesting. After dinner, I took a drive in to the hospital to see my friend who had the premature baby. It was dark and raining. I took a very roundabout way, thinking traffic might be bad on roads close to the no-go zone of downtown. But surprisingly, there was very little traffic. And parking was not a problem on the street. Apparently, people are heeding the message of staying off the streets unless necessary. The roads, however, were very damaged as I have mentioned before. Lots of bulges, hollows, holes, and the occasional liquefaction.
You may have heard about the strong 4.8 earthquake we had. Well. I was in the elevator going up to the 5th floor in the hospital when the earthquake hit!! That was the first time I have been in an elevator during an earthquake. I don't want to experience that again. It rocked back and forth and around and around and made eerie creaking sounds but kept going up. Very freaky. When I got to the room Sarah was in, she said that was a strong one and the room was really moving. She also said the hospital is the safest building in the city as it is on rollers and moves with the quakes. Still. The elevator was not a good experience.
Once you get to the number of earthquakes that we have experienced, you get to the point where you have felt an earthquake under almost every situation possible. Felt them while walking, sitting, standing, while on my bike, while in the car at stoplights, in bed lying awake and asleep, at the table eating, in an elevator (as of last night), outside noisy buildings that creak, outside in the hills (when I was moving boulders around).
After the visit at the hospital, I drove back home along the road that skirts the no-go zone. It was very eerie. The street lights were lit, a few cars on the road, and some building were lit. But at every road going into the city center, there was a fence across the road and on the other side, army personnel with army vehicles and behind them was just blackness. Blackness where the bustling city center once was. Where all our favorite restaurants and cafes were.
We went grocery shopping for the first time since the quake. Our local store is condemned so we had to go further away. There seem to be enough food but the shelves were only about ½ stocked.
I went back to our former home to get more water from our cylinder. I haven't mentioned this before, but throughout our yard there is the smell of death, of rotting dead animals. It seems to be in many places in the yard. All we can think of is that perhaps rats were in our attic and they fled the house during the quake. But why then did they die? If not them, then what is it?
Today the mayor went around the suburbs giving a talk about earthquake recovery. He spoke a bit and then had representatives speak from the electricity supplier, water, EQC, red cross, and civil defense. They gave a good summary of where the city is at and where we are going. It was impressive. Some people do complain that they are not getting it right, portaloos in the wrong neighborhoods, not enough social support. But I feel, in our area they have done a good job. One interesting point we all learned was that although power is restored to 95 percent of households (0 percent to downtown), some of this power is from generators out in the streets just putting power into the grid. In other places, major underground lines are destroyed and they have strung temporary overhead lines in a matter of days which would normally take months to do. 81 percent of the city has water but only 50 percent has sewer services. Our particular neighborhood discharges directly into the nearby stream since the pumping station does not work. So we are trying not to use the toilet. Chemical toilets are being delivered to much of the city.
The mayor was quoted in the paper as saying "it's been the most severe earthquake to strike a city in the world, ever". At first I was a bit dubious about this statement. But then tonight on the TV a seismologist stated much the same thing. Apparently, the g-forces measured in this city during the earthquake have never been seen before in a city (2.2G). I still am somewhat dubious given that it was only a 6.3 magnitude quake, but the motion is impressive and the destruction incredible. Seeing all those boulders in the hills above our houses just lifted up like marbles in the air and dropped down on fresh grass a few feet away is amazing. Some would weigh over a ton.
There is a lot of talk about all the heritage buildings that will be demolished. A lot of sadness about that as it defines a lot of the character of Christchurch. At least ½ of them will be gone after all this. And there is now some blame going around about why buildings that collapsed where give the green sticker after the first quake. But if indeed the strength of this quake is making history, and this is more than a 1 in 500 year event, then nobody is to blame as we don't plan beyond a 1 in 500 year event.
The good news is that they have cleared the rubble away from the cathedral and found no bodies! They expected 20 or so bodies. Of course, those 20 people are missing and the bodies will probably turn up in the rubble of other buildings.
I have been called away to do some work in the south of the country so will be gone from Christchurch from Tuesday the 8th for almost 2 weeks. It will be strange to be in an earthquake-free zone and will interesting to return to the city later to see the recovery progress.