Wednesday, March 2, 2011


The only thing I feel I can write about at the moment is the Christchurch Earthquake. It’s the only thing I feel right writing about.

I live about 750km from Christchurch. The earthquake showed up on seismographs near me, but nowhere near enough to be felt. I’ve been in earthquakes before, the largest a 6.7 I don’t remember (I was four). The ones I do remember were scary and exciting, because nothing really bad happened.

The first earthquake in September came as a complete shock. Christchurch is not supposed to have earthquakes – everyone knows the next big one will be in Wellington (my hometown). Wellingtonians are resigned to this, and most of the buildings should stand up to the quake long enough to get people out. The last big earthquake was an 8.2 in 1855, and half of Wellington city is built on land that was underwater before this. Since then most Wellington buildings have been built in timber – Wellington is even the home of the largest wooden building in the southern hemisphere.

But Christchurch? It’s had smaller earthquakes, but no one really thought much about it. As the news came through in September we found that no lives had been lost. A miracle! Businesses were ruined, houses made uninhabitable, but nobody had died. The earthquake became more spectacle than disaster as relief set in. Children stood in fissures, engineers got down to business marking buildings green, yellow, red, and New Zealanders pulled together.

Now things are completely different. The February 22nd earthquake was of a smaller magnitude, but it was closer to the city and much shallower. There was sideways movement of more than 1G – as if gravity turned ninety degrees. Two office buildings collapsed completely and the spire of the Christchurch Cathedral fell. The death toll stands at 160.

Every flag is at half-mast. Every conversation turns to the earthquake. Do you know anyone in Christchurch? Are they okay? Our national census, set for March, has been called off – the last time that happened was because of World War II. The government is trying to figure out what to cut so that Christchurch can function and be rebuilt.

But we pull together. When bad things happen, we find the courage and strength to continue. You see the best in people. There’s a ‘student army’ helping in Christchurch, and people around the country have opened their homes to earthquake refugees. Everywhere you go there are fundraisers – look on Trademe (our ebay) and you’ll see hundreds of auctions with profits going to help Christchurch. One guy’s selling the 25 tonne rock that destroyed his house – it’s called ‘Rocky’.

We discover ourselves through ordeals. We realise how lucky we are to be alive, and mourn for those who were not so lucky. Life is sharp and immediate and beautiful. It should not be wasted.

Kia kaha – stay strong.

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