February 23, 2011

Another Quake

A 6.3 earthquake hit Christchurch yesterday afternoon causing massive damage, electricity outages, flooding and worst - fatalities and people trapped in the rubble.

I know some of my family would like to get more coverage than what is being provided in the USA, so here are a few links to try.  There may be better ones, but these are the ones I know and have been tuned into so far:

This US site link has some powerful photos, some of which are a bit different than what I have seen in NZ coverage: The Washington Post.

We're fine; Christchurch, not so much.

Dunedin is about a 4.5 hour drive south of Christchurch - 364 kms or 220 miles.

I felt the earthquake back in September 2010.  And I felt yesterday's earthquake, apparently still considered an aftershock of September's quake.  Due to it's shallower depth, proximity to the city centre, and the time of day - this "aftershock" is a "whole different ballgame," as we Americans like to say.

I was in my office at Uni working away when I felt the shaking start, more like a rolling, that made me feel slightly nauseous.  My office mate and I just sat there feeling the movement, watching the trees outside the window sway, and listening to the creaking of the building.  From where we sat, it was not bad enough to feel the need to take cover even though it was undeniably an earthquake.  The noise of the building "squeaking" was the most nerve-wracking part as I thought of the five floors above me. My office is on the 2nd floor of a 7 story building.

I immediately checked the internet for the epi-centre and magnitude.  Within half an hour, word was spreading around the department that Christchurch was hit badly and the Cathedrale was ruined.

I had texted James to see if he felt it and he did not reply.  After a while, the thought ocurred to me that there could possibly have been some damage in Dunedin and I began to worry; particularly as James works in industrial settings, often up on a ladder!  But when I called, James was fine. He'd been on the 4th floor of the Cadbury chocolate factory (where he does a lot of their electrical work and programming) and felt the quake strongly. 

As quiet conversations sparked up in the office, the hallway and the tea room, I also followed the news on line and texted Christchurch friends. I felt two aftershocks.  The reality of the destruction in Christchurch set in slowly.  It was, and still is, very strange to be so close to the site of a national emergency and tragedy, but to have life go on as normal, more or less, right here.  I attended a meeting yesterday and had a haircut this morning. I half expected and wanted these things to be cancelled but of course there was really no reason for that to be the case here in Dunedin. So life goes on even while people are speaking in more hushed tones about their feelings of helplessness and watching the news carefully.  The university is playing live news coverage in the student link building as many students here are from Christchurch.

James and I have made contact with most of our friends in Christchurch, though not quite all of them.  For those we have contacted, all we know is that they are ok - details of the story will come later since we are asked not to block up communication systems.  As James said, New Zealand is a small country and the South Island is even smaller - we will most likely know someone gravely impacted by this. 

For those overseas, I want to point out one thing.  They think the death toll could easily be a couple hundred.  Keep in mind New Zealand's population is only 4 million. Everyone will know someone impacted by the quake.  So it seems it will be "New Zealand's darkest day" in many ways, as the Prime Minister has said.

I've been impressed with the emergency response in the last 24 hours.  New Zealanders are practical, capable, strong, caring people.  As I watch the rescuers, officials and public members on TV, I find myself thinking that if anyone can handle this well, New Zealanders can.  Not that they want to.

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