– Riccarton Mall

Feb 22nd:
I had been in the Riccarton Mall Whitcoulls trying to spend a gift voucher while they’re still honouring them. I gave up, had to get back to work. So I left the mall via a corridor which took me out into ground-floor parking. Another level of the mall and at least one level of parking above me. 50m ahead the exit and beyond that my car, parked on a surface street. I’d taken a few steps in that direction when the shaking started. I made inarticulate noises while I tried to work out what to do. I was very conscious of tonnes of concrete above me.

The shaking was so bad I hugged a large concrete pillar nearby while I thought “what should I do?” “where do I go where a pocket might form if this all comes down?”. There was the doorway I’d come through behind me, but it had large glass doors so I think I subconciously dismissed it. I felt a quite helpless because I really couldn’t think of a way out of the situation. But then the shaking stopped and I sprinted for the exit. It seemed to take a long time to reach daylight and the footpath.

Not a lot of people at that exit and only a few cars. I heard someone in a parking level above yelling “get out”. Everybody trying their cells, including me.

I drove back to work, there was some milling around, exchanging stories etc. Got a text from a co-worker of Kathy’s saying she was OK and heading home. So I shut down and did the same. Bumper-to-bumper traffic both ways on Birmingham drive. Moved maybe 5 car lengths in the first 15 minutes. Listening to the radio, trying my cell, exchanging nods and grimaces with people crawling past me going the other way. After the first 30mins or so, still on Birmingham Dr, started to think about just parking and walking home (google says 9.5km, 2hrs by foot). But I didn’t. Very glad that the lights were working at Blenheim Rd. Most were, but a few were out, people being very careful at the uncontrolled intersections. A couple of guys in hi-viz directing Curletts/Yalhurst. Several strong aftershocks while on the road, including one while stuck near the Waimari/Grahams Rd roundabout with huge trees beside me, thinking, are they going to go?

Occasional attempts to call out. Got through to my parents. My father had gone around to our house and done a basic check and reported it was OK. That was a relief, I feared returning to a broken house. Called home a few times and it just rang and rang — a sign the power was out. Didn’t get through to Kathy until about 3:30.

Finally made it home. Kathy shortly after. Went round to my parents, who had power, and watched the coverage on TV until dusk when we went home and read by our emergency torches.

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