– Holiday Inn City Centre Christchurch, Cashel Street, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

I just arrived with some colleagues for the New Zealand Society for Earthquake Engineering (NZSEE)’s Seminar on seismic retrofit of unreinforced masonry buildings at the Holiday Inn on Cashel Street. I parked my car on the Cashel St Wilson Car Park, not knowing, that was the last time I would drive my car for the next of weeks. We were just about to kick off the seminar at 1pm. I was talking about a damaged brick building on High Street with a mate, noting how it might collapsed without any urgent strengthening..and suddenly the earth shocked…Instinctly, crouching on my fours, glazing shattered around us, with various brick buildings collapsing right in front of my eyes!! Despite a room full of structural engineers and professors, scream and ‘bewilderment’ ensued. The first minute of so was surreal. We evacuated to Cashel St, only to walk out to the sight of the leaning Grand Chancellor Hotel. My heart sunk. It is not 4 Sept again – but much worse. I had an urgent need to let my fiancee/family know that I am fine and facebook was working! Shock was creeping into my mind. As with everyone, I began to walk towards Manchester Street and towards the open space, towards home, not knowing what really I should do and can do. Only when I returned to the CBD the day after that the scale and magnitude of the disaster that hit Christchurch dawned onto me.

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