I awoke to the bed shaking – quite gently at first and then the shaking became stronger and more violent, and it kept going – on and on. I heard the house creaking, the sounds of things moving around and some things falling off a bookcase. It kept going – a rolling motion. And then it stopped. I waited. I heard a few electronic beaps – indicating something but I had no idea what. I waited. And then a smaller after shock, the first of many. My first thought during the earthquake’s movement was “there will be damage from this one.”
I grew up in Wellington and so have encountered earthquakes intermittently through out my life – but this was significant and it seemed to last for a long time (for an earthquake!) In general I’m not unduly worried about earthquakes – I live in Wellington and they happen here – that’s how it is. We are taught to prepare for ‘the big one’ and had taken the usual precautions: making sure the water cylinders are fixed in place; making sure bookcases and other large pieces of furniture are secured to the walls so they can’t fall and injure someone; using blu-tack on the bottom of any valuables on display so that they don’t fall and break. (I have a lovely hand blown blue & green glass vase which always has blu-tack attached to it so it’s effectively stuck to the bookcase where it is on display. It was fine!)
I got up to check where the electronic beaping had come from – the power was still on but the internet connection was down. Helpful that the beap let me know! I discovered a framed photo and a book on the floor in the lounge but everything else had remained in place.
Then the alarms sounded – the call for the volunteer fire brigade which assists locally in the valley I live in. My husband is a volunteer and he got up, dressed and left. Initially I thought I’d try to go back to sleep but then I realised that the trains would be unlikely to operate and probably all multi-storey buildings in the central business district would need to be assessed for structural safety before we’d be allowed back to work. It’s standard when there’s been a significant earthquake – Civil Defence in conjunction with the city and regional councils have plans in place for such a time as this.
I made myself a cup of tea and went to the garage to find my husband’s transistor radio. It was then I realised the magnitude of the quake – initially thought to be 6.6 but later upgraded to a 7.5. When you live in New Zealand (sometimes referred to as The Shaky Isles), you learn about the depth, magnitude and severity of earthquakes and the numbers help give people a sense of the scale.
The original earthquake hit just after midnight at 12.02 am. It was felt throughout the South Island and in much of the North Island (particularly the lower half). There were some other not quite so large quakes and a multitude of smaller ones. It’s now some ten hours later as I write. I haven’t slept since. My husband has come home and gone again several times as the fire brigade deal with calls regarding power lines being down, or damage to homes or roads. There was a continuous sounding of the siren not long after the earthquake to warn of an possible tsunami along the east coast of both islands and people by and large self-evacuated from low lying coastal areas where necessary here in Wellington and around the country.
I was unable to go to work this morning due to the trains and buses not operating (while roads and train tracks are checked to ensure their safety). We were advised to stay home if we worked in central Wellington due to the damage to some multi-storey buildings and broken glass on the streets downtown.
There are reports of 2 fatalities due to the earthquake – if the earthquake had struck during business hours rather than at midnight, the results would have been SO much worse. There are reports of significant building and road damage around Kaikoura (towards the top of the South Island on the east coast) and roads throughout north Canterbury have been effected. Many hundreds of people have had to evacuate their homes due to the tsunami threat. Many homes around the country were (and likely some still are) without electricity and/or telecommunications.
My home has not been damaged. My husband and our animals are safe. To the best of my knowledge my neighbours, friends and family are all ok and accounted for. There has not been a major loss of life nor the devastation and damage that occurred during the Christchurch earthquakes of late 2010 and early 2011. Where there are pockets of damage, those who have been evacuated or those who are afraid, local communities pull together. It’s in times like this you will hear people say “Kia Kaha” – stay strong.
It may be early days – only a few hours really, and I do not know the full impact of this morning’s earthquakes. But what I do know is this: that things could have been so much worse. And we have much to be grateful for.