Well, we talked to Dave and Kari today! We were on the phone for about an hour and a half. We were able to read his e-mail before talking with him, which answered a lot of questions. I took notes while we talked, so there are some more details. I have seven pages (front and back) of notes, so I apologize in advance if everything is sort of unorganized – I’m going to list what we talked about chronologically, and maybe everybody will have more insight as to what’s going on over there!
Dave’s office (at work) – basically untouched. Bookcase is OK; it was anchored to the wall, but everything fell off. Mostly just books. At work, not much damage because they’re closer to the airport, while the epicenter is about a mile from their house.
The university is being assessed. Kari left her belongings. Her office is on the third floor.
Charlie’s daycare is OK.
As far as neighbors, there are 10 houses along the drive. Seven are empty/abandoned because people decided to leave. Of the three left, one has been told they should leave, but decided to stay.
Dave’s garage is OK.
Wine cellar was checked out. It was tough to get the door open, and every bottle is either on its side or on the floor. It’s a big mess! BUT only six or seven broke, which is funny because they fell onto a concrete floor.
To give an idea of how strong the earthquake was: The earthquake had a force of 2G (twice the force of gravity). They have a grand piano in the living room that is situated on casters (to protect the carpet from the wheels). When they found the piano, it was off the casters (which are each about a centimeter in height) and a few centimeters off to the side. This means that the piano was lifted up into the air, the ground moved down at a 2G force (leaving the piano essentially suspended in the air, since it would only be affected by gravity when not in contact with the floor) and shifted. When the piano landed back down, the earth had moved away, leaving it a few inches/centimeters away from its original spot. Crazy! The piano looks OK so far, superficially. In September, with the 7.1 earthquake, they saw the same phenomenon with boulders.
They’ve had several 4.8s since the big one.
Porch is extremely compromised. The rock wall is crumbling. All of the pillars are gone or have fallen apart. They’ve found bricks scattered around the yard, which should give an idea of how strong the quake was.
Their belongings are all in the “old” part of the house – basically Charlie’s room and the corner of the living room.
Kari’s home office has a waist-high pile of STUFF. They haven’t really gone in there to go through stuff yet, but they know there are lots of pictures and things they would like to save.
Dave’s slides are on a bookshelf that did not fall.
The house has moved 3 centimeters off its foundation toward the left end of the porch (downhill direction); 3 cm may not sound like a lot, but it is very significant to move an entire building 3 cm off its foundation. Also, the house moved away from the fireplace – it stayed still and the house basically left it behind.
Their fish tank broke, ruined books and other things. So they ripped carpets out so things can dry out (and to prevent the piano from growing mold). Under the carpet, you can appreciate the slant of the floorboards. Dave said a marble rolls along, picks up speed, and then bounces off the wall.
Blown out windows with their frames. They have boarded up broken windows and gaps to prevent rain and looters from coming in.
They are currently looking for a rental, basically through word of mouth, since all business is shut down. Some of their friends (who had already left after the first quake) also have parents who were trying to leave but waiting for their house to sell. Now they really want to leave, and it sounds like they will most likely rent their house to Dave and Kari. They’re just waiting to hear back.
The road to their house has massive cracks.
Below their house, in the yard, looking parallel to the slope (the same orientation as the rock wall), you can see that land is sliding down the hill. There are rivets about 3 feet deep, 5 cm wide. These could be of concern for a landslide, since they are so deep.
The kitten is OK! Kari found it that night. They’ve also welcomed the second kitten into their family.
Charlie is OK, but nervous. They said that when the aftershocks hit, he gets a little scared or tense, kind of looks to his mom and dad, but is otherwise handling everything the best he can.
Dave and Kari are staying with their friends who live down in the valley. From Dave’s porch, you can see his house. It’s about a kilometer or so from their house (closer than the school, for those of you who have been there).
Life is chaotic. They mainly focus on trying to get organized in their day-to-day life. Pit toilets, as there is no sewer, and who knows when the sewage system will be back up and running.
As far as drinking water, they say that 50 percent of the city is restored with water, but that mainly counts the suburbs toward the airport (which were basically OK). But they do have power, so they’re able to boil water for drinking. After the September quake, there was something in the range of 50 km of water pipes that were damaged that they were still trying to work on and fix. Now – who knows! The city water supply was just starting to cope with the water demand (this was reported just a few weeks ago).
The central business district is like a war zone – too horrible to even go to.
For water, there are tankers where people can go to get water. Dave has drained his hot water cylinder, which is used for drinking water, and Paul has one too, which they haven’t touched yet. There is a salt-water pool in the neighborhood, which people are using for washing water. They were able to take cold showers at Dave’s work yesterday because they have a 20,000-liter tank for emergencies.
The piles of silt along the road are half the height of cars; people are shoveling piles to clear space.
As far as going back to work, Dave heard a rumor that they may go back next week sometime, if people feel like working, but there’s no official word.
Schools are closed indefinitely. Unknown amount of damage. There is so much damage everywhere that they really have no idea about specifics (i.e., this school has X amount of damage, this building is condemned, etc.). The focus right now is on looking for the missing people.
The Basilica is damaged badly. I guess they have a friend (whom Cathy and Grandma met and showed around) who works/volunteers there. They were worried about her, but got word that all of the employees and volunteers are OK, so they were glad to hear that.
Allison (?) is OK, and so is her house.
Dave said it’s like living in two cities. There are the suburbs and the central business district. In the suburbs, they are facing their new reality of trying to survive and help each other, while the downtown area is still just so destroyed and the focus is still on rescuing people.
This earthquake (a 6.3) was an aftershock to the September quake. They’ve known it was coming. It has its own sequence of aftershocks. Since the epicenters are in such populated areas, they’re now just giving addresses of epicenters! Even a quake as small as a 2.0 is significant because they are so close and easy to feel – they are essentially right on top of the movement. The aftershocks should stop in about two to three years. By then, there should be a lot less stress on the rocks. Right now, everything is shifting, but it should start to settle down.
Half the city could be leveled – so many of the buildings were made of brick! They’re estimating $10 billion in damage just to the central business district.
There are still 200-plus missing, and approximately 140 dead.
Littleton (over the hill) is damaged badly: 60 percent gone, with bad damage to the port. A train derailed. The tunnel to Littleton was OK, but closed to all vehicles except emergency vehicles. It might reopen today, but there’s no good reason to go there anyway!
The lines for the gas stations are long, and sometimes they run out of gas. Groceries are rationed. Further away, in other suburbs, the grocery stores are a little more normal, but still extremely hectic. They have enough food, but people pull it off the shelves as fast as it is stocked.
They’re living in the “just get by” mode right now. Collecting water.
They are still hoping to host the Rugby World Cup, but who knows what will happen.
Interesting – out of their two fish tanks, one broke completely, while the smaller one lost just about half the water, and the fish were OK. Out of the big one, they found one of the fish under a rock two days later, not in water, but still alive! Gasping for breath, for some reason it survived. So they tossed in the tank, and it’s doing fine. Who knows what kind of brain damage, though … :-)
Right now, flights are $50 to anywhere in the country, which a lot of people are taking advantage of, just to get out of the city.
They’ve thrown a lot away, which people helped them with. As Dave mentions in his e-mail, some people from work came to help out. He said it was good that they didn’t have emotional attachment to stuff, so they were able to identify what was trash and needed to be discarded.
As far as timing for the earthquake, it was probably the worst possible time for downtown Christchurch, as that was when everybody was working, sightseeing, etc. The September quake was in the middle of the night when a lot of people were sleeping, so there were no casualties. Dave thinks they would have been OK in this one too had they been home asleep, but it might have been another story if they were home and outside, due to the flying bricks and debris.
The problem with this quake also was that the epicenter was in rock, not in sediment. This made for much stronger energy being transmitted. Also, they’re in a valley, so it was like waves going back and forth, bouncing off the rock walls.
The more earthquakes they have, the less likely there will be more, since the stress is releasing. There still could be more large ones coming, but the further away (timeline) you get from the main quake (which was in September), the better. Rocks are shifting around, and they should eventually settle down.
There’s some rock (shag rock, I think), that was in the ocean, that is gone, crumbled.
The newspaper is still publishing the paper and delivering it! However, they won’t go down Dave’s little lane; they just leave the paper at the edge. Also, mail is being delivered, since the mail is delivered by bike.
Even short drives take a lot longer. The gridlock is terrible. Many roads have only one lane now, and with many of the roads in bad shape, it takes time to weave around buckles in the road.
They got electricity two nights ago, now only about 20 percent are without electricity.
None of their trees fell over or were damaged.
It’s really great to see the community coming together and helping each other. They don’t know anybody personally who has died, although Paul (who they’re staying with) was downtown a few days before and realized that the woman in the dairy shop he went to didn’t survive. Said that was strange – “I just talked with her a couple days ago!”
Kari said the earthquake felt “significant” and knew that their house would be in bad shape, so she went and got Charlie right away and brought him to a building she knew would be safe at the university. She stayed as late as she could, because she knew the traffic would be really bad and didn’t think they had a place to go. She realized they could go to their friends’ place, which is where they ended up and are still staying.
Dave got Kari’s text messages up until where she was going, so he had no idea where she was. The next morning, her message finally came through, and he found them. He said he wasn’t too worried, since her messages all made it clear that she and Charlie were not in any danger.
He said the neighborhood is eerie. Driveways are empty.
As far as his house, about three weeks ago, EQC came to assess his house. They could tell immediately (without looking at all of his documenting photos) that the damage was more than $100,000 and would write a check for that amount. The next step was to have the insurance assessor come by, but the EQC guys said that the damage was clearly more than the house was worth. Dave asked about historic value, and they said it was possible. Dave was juuuust looking into filing for extra funding since his house was historic (he found that he qualified for the extra funding and was in the midst of filling out the paperwork to appeal the city council when this quake hit). Now there’s no point in doing that. He found out that his home site is also an archeology site and that a study needs to be done before anything is rebuilt – there could be artifacts in the ground.
Then we talked to Kari for a bit.
She said that they’re OK; a little traumatized, but OK.
She was at work, talking with a friend when the earthquake hit. It was a big, long shake, and he immediately said “this is a bigger one!” and ran to the doorway. She followed, and they watched as books flew off the shelves. Her computer and microscope were OK. She said it lasted 20 seconds, which doesn’t sound long, but when you count to 20 slowly and imagine everything shaking, it’s pretty long! The epicenter for this quake was so much closer than the larger one in September that they all felt it a lot more strongly, and it left a lot more damage. The epicenter for this one as well as the little ones is almost under their house.
The earthquakes (aftershocks) feel like short, sharp jolts, right under you. There is little warning. Some go up and down, some are side to side, some you can hear before they come (a rumbling), some jerk. Sometimes they echo between the two walls of the valley.
(While we were talking, there were probably about four quakes over about an hour and a half. Dave or Kari would say, “Can you hear that?” but we never could)
They’re about one kilometer from their house, closer than the school down below. The house they’re staying at has only minor damage. It’s made from timber, and is a lot newer than their home; it’s about 30 years old. Dave and Kari’s house has two walls of the foundation that are made from volcanic stone, which was a major problem. Pillars crumbled, the veranda roof pulled away from the house, but the timber part of the house is still standing. This is because the wood has the ability to bend and sway, while the rock is not as forgiving.
When they did the cleanup of their house, they basically made “neater” piles of stuff. They padded their TV (which was undamaged). She said that depending on the orientation of objects (which way they were facing) determined whether or not they were damaged. Imagine a raft on the ocean either facing the waves or parallel to the waves and how it’s affected – same with their stuff in the house.
The bay windows of their house were blown out. The molding and ceiling roses are still intact. They will definitely consider salvaging them for when they rebuild.
She said she felt OK going in the house. It’s freaky, but OK. She would not feel safe living there, though.
Aftershocks are about every 20 minutes or so. Loud BOOM when they happen sometimes.
Charlie was very scared the first day when they were alone without Dave. Very clingy and nervous. The aftershocks even shake them awake every 30 minutes to an hour at night. It’s scary when they keep going (as in: longer than four seconds). They consider the aftershocks small when the duration is short, and big when they’re long. Not so much how they feel, but how long they last.
There have been lots of people having heart attacks, and the hospitals are overwhelmed with trauma cases. Lots of crush injuries. You all may have heard about some of the field amputations that are occurring in order to save people. These are done without anesthesia, so you can imagine how horrific that is.
The Grand Chancellor Hotel is precarious and will fall anytime probably. When it does, it’s sure to send shockwaves through the city. They aren’t even trying to look for people there, nor can they look in the surrounding buildings; it’s just too dangerous.
Well, that about sums up our conversation! Those were my notes, anyway. I hope it answers a lot of questions! They both sounded pretty good. Dave had his sense of humor, and I think they’re all just adapting to their new way of life for now. They aren’t happy about it, but they’re dealing. Positive attitudes, and they have some really great friends, neighbors and colleagues who are helping them out.
We told them that we’re all thinking about them and wishing them the best. Internet is very spotty for them, so we didn’t get to Skype. Phone calls were free, though, which is why we were able to talk for so long. All in all, they’re OK for the time being.
Click here to read Part 3.