3 March 2011
5231 aftershocks now since the main quake in September. Tonight we had a 3.9 quake while eating dinner. The epicenter was only about 300-400 feet away. There was no rumbling before it hit, no warning at all. The house just suddenly shook violently. It felt much much stronger than a 3.9 since it was so close, and all the earthquake waves arrived at once making it short but very sharp. When they come without warning and are that strong, they can really scare you. Susan yelled as soon as it hit and we all just gripped the rocking dinner table. Paul walked around the house to see if it was ok. Charlie and Oliver looked at us to see if it is ok.
Since the big quake 8 days ago, we've had 378 earthquakes, most of them within a mile or so of the house.
Susan said Oliver is now worried more about the earthquakes and a bit scared. He told her, as she put him to bed, that he really hoped there would be no earthquakes tonight. Last night was a very rough night. We had a 4.6 quake just before bed, then we had 8 earthquakes between midnight and 7 am, most of them waking me up. The strongest was 3.9. It's so disorienting to be woken up by an earthquake. (a quake just hit as I am typing this). I would much rather only feel them when awake. When they hit at night, you wake up suddenly and quickly realize it's a quake and then wait to see how strong and if you need to get up or not. Then you try to get back to sleep with a racing heartbeat. After that rough night, I met a woman walking down the street and she seemed half awake. I asked how she was and she said not very good. Too many earthquakes, and her dog is very much stressed, not eating or drinking enough. I suggested she come back later to talk with Susan, as she is a veterinarian.
Yesterday we got more washing water from the swimming pool, more drinking water from my hot water cylinder, and I helped Paul extend his pit in the backyard for our toilet. The previous one was full now. Then I noticed the winds. Some days here we get strong NW winds, with dry, hot weather. This was a bad sign. I could see the dust clouds everywhere, blowing the sewage-contaminated liquefaction silt around. At the end of the day Paul said lots of people were wearing face masks, as his work area was not far from the downtown, no-go zone. Not what we needed. That is what can make people so sick. Paul said it reminded him of India. Dust billowing down the street, very smelly, people wearing masks.
After dinner we went up the hills not far from this house to look at boulders. Most boulders had moved. Many rolled down the hill, many were just lifted in the air and set back down on fresh grass a foot or so away. Since the motion was twice gravity, all these boulders were suspended in air while the ground moved beneath them. Our former home on Rapaki Road is on the side of a hill which has lots of cliffs and loose boulders. So today, I joined a group on our former street combing the hills for unstable boulders. (Our immediate neighbor has a 4-foot diameter rock that crashed into his house). We found about 20 or so ranging from 2 to 4 feet in diameter which were ready to roll down the hill. We dug holes and rolled them into safe places. Three were too big. We had to pound in stakes and wrap wire around the rocks to keep them from rolling down. What a significant hazard when living on the hills!
An article in the paper today said these hills, the Port Hills, are now 1 ½ feet higher than they were before the earthquake. The movement on the fault had a vertical component, resulting in an uplift of the Port Hills.
While near my former home, I went to visit it again. Like visiting an old friend. Reminiscing. I can't help but go in and see how it is, but it is so sad. I also went down to the major cracks in our yard. These cracks extend along most of our yard and all the way through and beyond the neighbors yard. I measured the depth. They are 11 feet deep! That will be a concern. The hillside on the other side of the valley was evacuated last night due to big cracks.
Yesterday, while at our former home, we were visited by land search and rescue. They are going door to door to see how people are doing, to make sure everyone has a place to stay, food, water, support, and access to counseling if they need it. I am impressed with how well the city is looking after us. It just makes you stop and realize just what has happened and big it has effected you. Kinda brings those emotions back to the surface again.
Returning to our present home, we found that a slow stream of water now comes out the faucets. So we have water now! Sort of. We are told to boil all water until further notice. Turns out our former home and street won't have water for about 6 weeks. The good news is that we have secured our rental property and can move in in about 7 days. It will have all services.
What about downtown? The other part of the story? They have now moved from rescue to recovery. They expect the death toll to be about 240. The last person found alive was the day after the quake. Now they are sifting through the rubble looking for remains. Downtown may not be opened for many months, possible not until Christmas, they say. A client through my work told me today a relative of his died in the quake. So now I know someone who lost a loved one. It puts our loss in perspective.
66 percent of the city has water, 82 percent has power. $22 million dollars have been given to the Red Cross. As we lost our home, we can apply for emergency funds (I think $1000). Extra portaloos are being brought in from the USA (1000).
My focus now will be to start building a new life at our new, temporary home. Charlie will no longer go to the local school (his first school visit was to be today). We need to decide what we will bring with us, what we leave at our former home.
While typing this email we had 6 earthquakes.
Click here to read Part Eight.