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Christchurch Earthquake 4 September 2010 - experience of a resident

Dorothy - 04/09/2010


We were sound asleep at 4.35 am when we were awakened by horrendous shaking accompanied by ominous creaks and groans and bangs. It seemed as though the house was being shaken and twisted by a giant determined to destroy it or at least throw us out of bed.

The power went off immediately leaving us with no lights and no heating. The morning was bitterly cold. We searched for the torch kept in the bedroom for emergencies. In spite of our good intentions and numerous reminding by the media like many others we had not checked the state of the batteries in our torches for some time and the one we found gave only a very faint light. It was just enough to find a battery radio.



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We remembered being told that one of the safest places to stand was in a doorway, but it was a bitterly cold morning with no power so we could not turn on the heater. As ours is a single story house with no chimneys we decided to stay in bed as the only warm option and not especially vulnerable. We lay there being tossed around by after-shocks of varying intensity and listening to the radio broadcasts. It was an eerie experience and our minds were filled with images of the Haiti earthquake and memories of our experiences of previous earthquakes.

At 5.30 am our son's voice calling at the window was a heart warming sound. As our phones were inoperable he had driven across the city to check on our welfare and reply to a text message from our daughter in America. How fast news travels! And how quickly responses can come.



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The usual solace in times of crisis - a hot cup of tea - was not an option. When we did force ourselves up we put on many layers of warm clothes. We picked our way through books strewn on the floor from bookcases in several places. Two ornaments were broken but there was no serious damage. We breakfasted on lukewarm cups of instant coffee made with tap water and bread and honey. At least we had water unlike many people who had neither power nor water. We did have new batteries and we put these in our torches. Luckily we have not had to resort to them.

We were lucky to have the power and telephone communication restored by 10.30 am but also the day turned out to be sunny and warm. In many other areas of the city people were not so fortunate.



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Once the phone was restored it rang at frequent intervals all day. We had calls from other places in New Zealand and from Hong Kong. Emails came from friends round the world. No one who rang had suffered serious loss as a result of the earthquake but of course it was uppermost in their minds and they recalled experiences in earlier New Zealand earthquakes.

We live in a newish suburb west of the city and there is little evidence of damage in our environment but it is a different story in the central business district where some ninety buildings are reported to be seriously damaged. In some of the older areas where foundation conditions are not good there has also been considerable damage.