– Sumner and Bromley

Quake story – not a bad ending

Hi I’m in Christchurch, New Zealand, and I thought I’d write my quake-story since I’m in bed with chest-trouble and can’t get up and work yet.

On the 22nd of February I’m walking up Richmond hill on the road above Sumner with a backpack of stuff to drop off at a friend’s there. Suddenly there’s a roaring and banging and the ground’s reverberating me like rice on a drum-skin. I run from the drop edge of the road to the other side all over the place like a drunk on roller-skates (you can laugh) – lucky there are no cars, because I have little control over the direction. I want to grab a sapling at the bank on that side, as it’s supple and might not rip out, while a large tree might crush me. I watch for the bank itself collapsing over me.
It does collapse, eventually.

I hear a man howling and roaring, but he stops and I don’t know where the noise comes from of all the houses either side. I decide I won’t enter any houses as my priority’s securing my own children, and who knows what’ll happen next. The shaking stops, and I cell-phone-text my daughter who’s at my house about 4km away, with her 7-day-old daughter. “I’m O.K. You O.K?” No message passed then after a few minutes, “We O.K. You O.K?” “Yes; coming home now” No voice-calls for a while.

About 2 minutes after the big shake, another one and I scream. I won’t say I wet myself because that happened when I jumped the first time, being older and the pack being heavy. Black trousers are good. Some work-men come down the hill, and I see my big chance, girls! (just joking) I say “Is it O.K if I have a hug?” and he grins very kindly and holds out his arms. Boy; I clutch that big bloke in a death-grip and shake like a jelly, and hope he can’t detect urine-fumes. I tell him I heard a man screaming but don’t know where from.

Jogging on down the hill and see that this is a serious historic quake, as stuff’s shattered all over the place and below the houses a garage-sized boulder has bashed-in the Returned Services Building.

I cuddle an old lady with a bloodied tea-towel around her head sitting outside her house, but have to get on home to protect my family, and continue jogging. On the causeway I keep an eye out for tsunamis, deciding to swarm up the nearest tree if I see one, or the tide rush out, and the asphalt gives underfoot here and there, so I wonder whether I might plummet through like quicksand. It would’ve been spews of liquefaction. Cars are leaving in droves (excuse the pun!) and in about 20 minutes, people are coming in from the other direction in cars and by foot in business-suits with the trousers rolled up as the bridge has been closed for a while. Lots of people offer me a ride, but I prefer to be on my own resources as there are tumbled cliffs and buildings and prospects of more to come, of course.

Once I’m past them, I get a ride from some sweet teenagers. The lad’s so upset, he drives up and over the median grass to put me at my street and get to his own home, which is nearby. The sewer’s burst, and liquid’s pouring across the road – where the hell’s my house? Oh – the chimney’s down; that’s why I can’t spot it from a distance. My daughter and her old childhood friend are crouched in the wooden hallway with the baby and the friend’s toddler in their arms, under the big braced arch near the glass front door at the veranda, staring at me with the big eyes.

Baby’s fine and breast-feeding up a storm. My daughter was opening the fridge, and the lathe and plaster ceiling ripped out a big chunk and bounced off the top of its open door, shattering. She’s not bruised. She runs to baby and finds baby’s O.K. and sound asleep. The huge flat-screen TV catapulted across the room as the chest of drawers tipped over and it’s scythed down between her bassinet and the double bed. The mobile fastened onto the foot of the bassinet has stopped the drawers which’ve slid out from touching her, as it’s braced against the heavy chest of drawers.

Boy; am I wired!!! I rush about joking and tidying the kitchen where the fridge and cupboards have toppled the contents, and the other messes, including my soaked bed from overflow into the ceiling, and get onto the roof during after-shocks (yay! funsies!) to smash the bricks apart and toss them into the garden as the 2.5m stack of brick’s above the living-room and the new steel roof’s dipped. My daughter comes out scandalized at my 60-yr-old’s risk-taking behaviour and nags me to come down. Wee t*t-limpet keeps chomping away at the breast, blissfully regardless. Later on I’ll discover two rafters are snapped. While I’m up on the roof, I spy a neighbour coming in with a shopping-trolly to steal from me. I find out a lot about peoples’ character in the days to come.

Water’s sloshed out of the toilet cisterns, but the floor’s not particle-board so it’s o.k. The power’s off, so I build a barbeque from some of my bricks, and collect dead-wood and pine-cones from the local park. We get the power and water on and off for a while, and I regretfully toss-out the freezer-full of cheap chicken my son got me on his student holiday job. The storm-water drain and house pipes are broken under the ground and there’s several months to wait before the s.w drains can be fixed.

My big sister’s house has a twist and 60cm tilt from front to back and widening cracks. The internal garage-wall on the little sister’s house has tumbled. The two brothers’ places here are pretty o.k. The first lighter quake in September last year’s broken 9 concrete piles, so there’ll be more this time. My sister tells me “Hey; your mantelpiece’s on a tilt” I reply “la-la-la” and stick my fingers in my ears …

Tell your story Report this story

Report this Story as Inappropriate

If you've noticed any inappropriate content in this story or feel that the story contains privacy violations, please fill out the form below.

We'll review your report and remove information that is in violation of our policies.

We'll only use your email address to let you know about the result of your report.