– Governors Bay, Canterbury, New Zealand

Disrupted lives – living with earthquakes. Diary entries from 15-23 June 2011

Post June the 13th quake. Now 15th June.
All night we seemed to wobble and then a pretty long and big jolt again to get us up at 6.27am. This feeling of not knowing what to do prevails, the enormity of the events in the scheme of the earth’s energies and evolutions. How strange to be living in this, being onlookers and participants in this earth led change.

Each day we eagerly devour our local paper to find out any new information. There are a lot of us in this together. The weather continues to deliver a gorgeous and mild winter. Next week will be the shortest day. We are blessed with this mildness during such disruption to our own living conditions.

Son Mischa called me this morning. He was back in Avonside at his home, worse hit than ever; sitting in a sea of liquefaction again and he unable to even enter the house or the shed this time. The gate to the property and all doors jammed as the earth has moved and dropped so much. “How do we go forward?” That is the question asked by most of us each day. Those with monetary resources at least have more choices. The “haves” and the “have nots”, and the distance between them, is enhanced and worsened by these disasters.

Nelson June 17th 2011-
Time away again briefly to reflect on the week and deal again from outside the shaking zone, with Telecom, EQC and Insurance. I work to get communications open, lines connected again at the house, computers sorted due to power surges, review where things are at with EQC, once more doing battle, whilst all the while conscious, they are still wobbling in Christchurch. Fifty five springs have erupted in the Heathcote Valley yesterday, yet Maria who lives there, tells me many of the neighbours still have no water in their taps. She has been doing loads of washing again for some of the neighbours and comforting distressed people. This time people have tried to get back to work and to school more quickly but people are demoralised, there is a huge heaviness reflected in their faces, their voices, their words. It is hard to find the positive this time.

June 18th – Wellington
Last night I spent the evening with Ross and Moira. Ross has the commission to do the official photographic record of the demise of Christchurch since September 2010. His photo story is amazing and shocking especially the latest lot, from the visit this week post June 13th.

I sat last night and listened as he described his afternoon of the 17th in Sumner and Redcliffs and Ferrymead and Phillipstown. Now I was in the position of being the person asking and listening, trying to understand, having not been in the zone for 3 days. He described some jolts and rock falls again quite close to where he was photographing, and distressed people trying to retrieve belongings and pack cars. It’s hard to believe it is ongoing, yet ongoing it is. That great lull in early June was a fake lull. And of course it is full moon time again. It can be laughed at but actually it is a fact that for the past 10 months now we have had significant jolt periods around the time of the full moon and I am not a Mr Moon follower!.

20th June –
Who says money can’t buy happiness. I certainly feel a lot happier now, than I did a few days ago, and time out from the quake zone has done this for me and the caring of other people. And clean sheets and nice bed linen and warm air temperatures and no shaking. It benefits us to get away. It always does but once again we are separated into those who can arrange or find a way to get a break, and those who can’t.

21st –
And I am heading back to Christchurch. Today I have had that horrible heavy feeling in my body and fluffy feeling in my mind, unable to cope with what lies ahead. Today I made contact with the council again and the Geotech firm, and Telecom. Hopefully tomorrow I will see some movement and resolution in some of these quarters. What I do know is that what is next is fast approaching, and requiring answers. By Friday I need to have alternative accommodation, or it’s back to the caravan and I can’t do that, health wise. The lungs are in revolt.

Governors Bay June 22nd 3.45 am and 7.00 am
We are jolted awake yet again. A truly horrible night starting with a 5.3 jolt centred (we are told at first on Geonet) nearby in the heart of the Peninsula. 10.34 pm and I had just got settled in to friends Sarah and Philips. I had not yet unpacked my bag but was enjoying a meal and a glass of wine sitting around the fire with another visitor for the night, Sam.

Diary entry
The night has been peppered with quite severe and noisy jolts. It is extremely disturbing, my stomach is churning and I feel sick and anxious, my heart rate increasing with each significant jolt.

Lui the dog is very disturbed, pacing the floor, settling down on the end of the bed, then pacing again. He is on high alert. I spent yesterday worrying about how I would be, coming back, and now here I am and it is worse even than I feared. The strength of these shakes is disturbing and the relentlessness of the hits even more so. I spoke to my son Mischa yesterday and he reminded me of the hope again as he spoke of the plans small business owners had to move into Sydenham, the revival of the fashion and café scene of High street in a new locality. He talked of his ideas to open a café or specialty food outlet. His enthusiasm was contagious and I found myself being carried along by the excitement of it. But now at 4.00 am and it does not feel exciting or positive. It seems unbelievable.
4.30 am now and we’ve had a lull for half an hour. Time to go up to the kitchen and meet Sarah for a hug and a hot lemon and honey and a look on Geonet to see the number and size of quakes, and then a quick talk to husband and son as they prepare to leave for a morning meeting in Vancouver. I struggle seeking sympathy from them and they struggle to understand what is happening here, and yet they are obviously concerned. I wonder how the houses are doing, all the broken houses and roads and the people all over Christchurch. How will they fare in a night like this?. Just looked on Canterbury Quake Live and have seen the locations and number and the sizes of the shocks. They are coming from all angles, the hits. Some are on the old fault out west and an equal number on the eastern faults out to sea. We have had four over 4.0 in the last five hours.
I am sick of measuring my life like this.

When I look at the news reports on TV and see the sad and stressed people in the liquefaction areas to the east, I cannot believe what these people are having to cope with on a daily basis. They are just waiting – waiting to be told if their land is to be remediated or not. Everyone is just hanging out for those decisions, and then what? They can’t all be relocated at once so how does it change the actual living conditions? It doesn’t, it just gives some closure to the not knowing and gives people an idea to hang on to of what might be next.

This morning I will visit our house and see how it has fared over the last 7-8 days. I will try to get some sleep in this calm patch.

And I did sleep for three and a half hours and then up and off to our house. It had fared well although there was mess again to clean up. The temporary strengthening carried out on the house has protected it from further decay!

11.00pm 22nd June – and so to sleep.
A day of upset stressed out people as we faced our work days after little sleep. Tomorrow is the first of the announcements about houses that will not be saved and land that will not be remediated. I am hoping our son and daughter-in-law will be in that first batch and how much their payouts will be and when they will all get them. How will the other many thousands feel tomorrow who are not in the initial packages, yet whose land and houses lie in ruins. So much stress today so obvious in people’s faces and behaviours, yet the mechanics of everyday life turn over.

Night of the 23rd – almost midnight.
Tonight will be the last night in the comfy inside bed at Sarah and Phillips. Tomorrow night Mark will return from his work trip overseas and it will be back to the caravan. Mark will not be pleased. Its real winter now and raining outside.

Today brought relief and sadness and reality to all those marked in the red zone. My son and daughter-in-laws house is inside this zone and my granddaughter looked at me on the way home from school and said, “Ganga, I love my house though and what will happen to the playhouse in the garden and to my tree house?” It is such a strange thing for thousands of people in this zone to say goodbye to their homes, some of whom have been in them for fifty plus years, to leave their streets, their communities behind and go who knows where. There is relief and sadness mixed.

All over town people gathered around their radios at 1.30pm as the Prime Minister John Key outlined the outcome of the findings and the Government’s offer unprecedented, all unprecedented. But what of the people left stranded one street over from the demarcated line or in some cases, one house away. We see as they are interviewed the fear and emotion on their faces. They feel left out in the cold, just one step away. Who will ever want to buy their properties? What will they look out on for years but a large scale demolition of what had been their neighbour’s properties? I feel for those people demarcated orange or green and then what about the rest, the white zones. Not even worked out yet. What is to be done with them, the hill zones, cliff top homes to the east and south east in the harbour, with land still crumbling, so difficult to assess. High value properties and land commanding gorgeous views of Christchurch and the mountains and the long sweep of the Bay to the Kaikoura mountains in the background. Such sought after suburbs and now in many cases, places of terror and unknown precariousness.

They and us in the inner harbour, we have been allotted innocuous “white” and wait.

This story is an extract from an unpublished manuscript written by Rosie Belton between 4 September 2010-22 February 2012. Read more of Rosie Belton’s writing here

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