I work from home so I have seen our home go through the three major earthquake events. Our house is on the beach side of the Southshore spit which lies between the sea and the estuary. The sand our home is built on has been quite stable and has had no liquefaction.
Our weatherboard and tin roofed house has survived quite well but being near the epicenter, the violence of the shaking itself has broken concrete slabs and caused the piles of the house to move. Geotechnical reports say our house has risen a metre but we do not really feel sure what is going on.
During the September event we also experienced the additional concern of tsunami. In February and June events we have been closer to the epicenter and so had a lot of things broken and much more damage. In all three events it has been hard to stay on our feet and we’ve been thrown about.
During the September event our house was full as a friend’s wife had recently died and so we were hosting people on the Friday night. One guest had just flown in from the UK the night before the quake struck. At 4.30 am our family of three (two adults at and one teenager) two guests and our two dogs ended up in the car driving for high ground after being shaken violently awake.
The initial shaking did not cause me to feel too much panic but as we drove and found roads to be splitting and the bridge across the estuary collapsing it became more alarming. We followed a 4 ×4 across the bridge and only just made it in our sedan with the car scraping over the gaps. Driving through town, lights were out including traffic lights. Some cars were speeding and the road was becoming more treacherous as tarseal lifted and gaps in the road grew.
Having established there was no tsunami threat we carefully made our way back home. There was no power or water and soon found out the sewage system was down. We were just thankful no one was hurt and got on with the business of day to day survival. Due to the funeral we had ten guests in the house for breakfast that day. We were lucky to have a gas hob we could still use for cooking and boiling water. A neighbor bought water over for us. In the following days and weeks it became clear that hygiene, water, cooking were our biggest problems.
Having camping gear and an inverter that ran off the car to charge cell phones were critical. Cell phone and radio became the only means of communication. We dug a long drop in the back garden. (Which we still have to use through to July this year – though we had to build a winter proofed version).
People being harmed in the February event affected us all in different ways. Fortunately our immediate friends and family were not hurt but going to funerals to support friends and colleagues made the impact much more significant. The damage to the city was much more obvious. As the aftershocks continued sleep deprivation became a problem. Being close to the epicenter meant being rattled awake a few times each night and so day to day life was even more difficult. We had to take breaks away from Christchurch for short periods.
With the June event finally bringing down so many of the Christchurch landmarks it has been a more emotional impact in terms of how we feel about continuing to live in the city. There is the realisation we are gong to be in a construction zone for a long time. Many friends and neighbors have moved away. There are gaps in our streets, homes and lives. However we have got to know many new people and realised there is a great community of people in Christchurch. The future however does bring some fears and insecurities. But alongside that there is great hope we can all build something good out of all of this.