– CBD and Lyttelton, Canterbury, New Zealand

I was the manager of the restaurant at the Christchurch R.S.A. in the C.B.D. We weren’t too busy, with 4 tourists awaiting their ‘Sheppards’ Pies, I had removed 2 from the oven and was bent over with my mitted hands on the other 2 when the quake hit (Feb22). I rocked and took a second to think, just let them go. I pushed the 2 dishes into the oven turned passing the deep fryer, (not giving it a thought, that it only stands on 4 flimsy legs) got to the first doorway, (with the full deep fryer now 4 feet behind me) stood in the doorway, watching 3 upright freezers rocking towards me, and each time I thought they’d drop, they rocked back again. I was told later it lasted 20 seconds, at the time I had no idea. It stopped and as I had many times before in the course of much lesser shocks, my sense of humour kicked in and I called out ‘Lunch is off!’ I heard the barmen instructing my tourists to leave the restaurant, and reminded myself, this might be serious. I proceeded into the bar lounge and instructed some very shocked patrons, they had to get out.

Out on Amagh St, people wandering around, the tram tracks bursting up from the road, people standing staring towards central city. Our tourists looking very worried, I retrieved our smoking chairs from the front of the building, and found a place on the road to put them and encouraged the women to sit down. In the end, telling them they must head back to where they were staying. Liquifaction was beginning to come up through the pavements, running along the gutters .

I decided there was nothing more to be gained by hanging around on the street, so informed the rest of the staff, I was going back in to get my car keys and leave through the back entrance to get my car and head home, little did I know this was going to take many hours and with my gas tank on E for enough, tricky. We all went back in, locked up as best warped doors would allow and departed, I ended up with one other non driver.

We left turning left into Gloucester St, then a right into the one way system hoping to head for the hills to Lyttelton, but the Police were directing us to turn right again, then right again, now we are heading past the gallery around the park and towards Bealey Avenue, stopping often rocking often and going no more then 10 km an hour. Hours later we get down Bealey Ave all the time wondering how long our petrol will last, and just how popular we will be if we have to get pushed off the road. At the end of Bealey we are hoping to turn right, no, straight ahead, no, left we went. Then made a rash decision to go right, through a suburb I didn’t know, and actually ended up going Avonside drive and down Linwood Ave, 4 and a 1/2 hours later, made it to Mitre 10 in Ferrymead to find out the bridge was shut, managed to get down Garlands Rd, where a very nice lady in a local business there, who had no water, let us finally go to the toilet. I think someone informed us the tunnel was shut, and we were out of gas, so managed to get to a friends in Grange St.

I finally heard from most of my family at dinner time, and very late that night my youngest son used his navigator to come and get me by going over Dyers Pass through Governors Bay. Unfortunately we did not go the same route back leaving Grange St, and turned left at the river, and were blinded by a stationary van that had done what we were about to do and run into some split road, with dead ends, so our driver side tyres were stuck. Some lovely helpful 4 wheel vehicle drivers came down one after the other, and towed us out with the 2nd towing the van out, and we were back in Lyttelton by 10pm. One of the Ambulance Officers where we were at the station needed a lift home to Diamond Harbour, so as the only volunteer, I drove him home with two of my sons in the back seat. I was to find out the next day, not many people would drive on that road, in daylight! The next day we also went around for another reason and took pictures of the house with the hole in it at Rapaki, all the more reason seen why not to drive around the bays.

The first night my son had informed me on the phone before I got back that our home was munted, I remember saying ‘yeah right Ben’ No mum, he repeated, it’s really munted. It turned out when the quake struck he had been in the kitchen about to step into the walk in pantry to get to the fridge, the contents of the pantry came up to his knees, and the kitchen floor was covered in broken glass, so he had to jump the bench. He went to the top of the stairs to yell for his older brother, who was asleep. His brother stirred and thought, bit of an earth quake, the 2nd time he heard his brother, he decided it might be serious, raised his head to find his tv and bookcase on the bed beside him. When he got up the stairs the two managed to find one door out of 5 that would open, they left walked across the courtyard, up the steps to the road, where upon they heard a loud ‘crack’ looked up and saw the face of the cliff way above break off, and rocks cascading down the valleys either side of them, ploughing through trees. One large rock the size of a car bonnet landed right inside the subdivision gates and the other rolled through a retainer wall across the roadway within the subdivision and came within feet of a ladies property who lives on the road leading up to the subdivision. Shortly after that their father and other brother got up the hill to pick them up.

We were lucky enough after spending the night in the Lyttelton St John Ambulance station, to be loaned a key to ‘Grubb Cottage’ by members of the committee that took care of it, and so we had a roof over our heads and a floor to sleep on. Less than two weeks later a bureaucrat from Ch Ch City Council came with her clip board, and told us we had to get out. That they weren’t insured to have anyone stay in it. So we frantically got hold of our insurance company who told us what our insurance would cover.

During the 2 weeks following the quake, all was very surreal, just surviving seemed unreal. While my husband coordinated between the Ambulance service in Lyttelton and the Fire Brigade, I co- ordinated with the Navy the retrieval of the contents of our local supermarket, having it stored in the training room at the St John rooms. I saw that if the Cinema across the road collapsed, Lyttelton was going to loose its only food source, with the Sumner Road closed and the tunnel closed, if Dyers Road ended up closed due to a subsequent quake we were on our own.

I cannot say enough about the help recieved from ‘The Navy’ they were the best.
I would wake, early in the morning at Grubb Cottage, have to don my dressing gown, walk along to the Ambulance station to use the toilet, then I’d walk along to the Navy squad minding the cordon of our main street, check what hot drinks they would like and walk back to the Station and return with steaming cups, I got to know some great folk. We had no running water for over a week, and I even managed a lovely hot shower aboard ship. They fed our town, and did some amazing work while they were here, and I hope someday to catch up with some of them and remember.

We finally found a rental, and even though we had to vacate it the following December, we took it. This week we begin our vacate, the owners will return for 5 weeks Christmas holidays, we must be out by Christmas day, and will be returning early Feb. This year has been an emotional roll-a-coaster, the emotions the same as after a death. Five adults living together, all adjusting to their new circumstances. My family are all well, my 3 sons, daughter, SIL and grandson are all well. For that I feel truly blessed.

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