– Salisbury Street, Christchurch Central, Canterbury, New Zealand

It started out just a normal day. I had just finished having coffee with a friend and returned to my desk ready for the afternoon. Colleagues had just arrived from Wellington and we were planning the rest of the afternoon. All of a sudden the shaking started, normally we would keep working as they would pass, but the shakes got worse until we realised this was not like the other shakes.

We all dived under the desks and held on. Roof panels fell in and glass walls shattered. Desks started travelling along the floor, the building was swaying quite badly. It seemed to go on for ages, not sure how long it really was. When the shaking stopped, someone yelled “Get outside”..we all ran down the outdoor fire escape down to ground level where we got to see the full damage of the building. Windows had blown out, part of the building had separated from the stairwell – you could see daylight between them.

Alarms were going off around the city, everyone looked shaken and shocked. I tried to ring my family with hands shaking and a dry mouth, my heart was racing, that was the worst part not being able to get hold of anyone to find out if they were ok.

We couldn’t get out of the evacuation assembly area as part of the building we were in had fallen off and was blocking the access way. Someone kicked down the fence behind us and we all climbed through to get out to the road.

We all dispersed into different directions, the priority was to get home and to check on our families, phones still not working.

I loaded up my car with my colleagues to get them home, the traffic was heavy, traffic signals and lights were out – it was chaotic. Roads were flooded and the liquefaction was everywhere. Some people took it upon themselves to stand in the middle of intersections and direct traffic..it seemed to help.

A couple of big aftershocks hit us as we were waiting in traffic, all we could do was to ride it out. A guy yelled out of his van “The cathedrals down!”, this seemed unreal. The scale of the event was sinking in a little but we wouldn’t know the full extent until many weeks later.

What would normally be a 10 minute trip to my partners house took 2 hours, I stopped off at a dairy to get water (a lesson learnt from September) but the EFTPOS machines were down and I didn’t have cash. The liquefaction was bad…we walked through the sludge to try and get water from the supermarket around the corner but the supermarket was wrecked, closed and the staff were assembled in the car park.

We walked through what was like a war zone, disbelief and stunned at what was happening to our city.

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