– Heathcote Valley, Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand

February 22nd 2011 this was the day we were to have our roof fixed from the September quake, it was raining so did not expect to see roofers today…. On the return home from visiting friends stopped off at St Martins New World, (docket states the time of paying at 12:44) then home to Heathcote Valley, driving along the Port Hills Road and just before the flyover to Lyttleton the car became a monster, no control, it threw me to the side of the road, self preservation kicked in I put on the handbrake and brake, jumped out the car, the road left my feet, another shudder, I screamed, the driver behind me had also jumped out of his car, he opened his arms wide and I ran into them sobbing and asking if he had been in the September one, poor man he said it was his first earthquake and he was from Australia. After reassurance both ways we continued on with our separate journeys very very slowly.

My house was only a minute away, but the road was moving and shuddering, something was running along the road the Port Hills Road at first I thought was a rabbit, it was running along the so fast you could hardly see that it was a cat. When I got home my husband was outside with neighbours all giving support to each other, then another quake 5.9, it was terrifying. Our house suffered damage even though it was only 18 months old and inside nothing left in any of the cupboards, like most people we had a smorsborg of food – wine, flour, oil, jam fish sauce, china and glass………… My husband where was he when it struck, yes you guessed right, on the toilet, he said he thought he was going to be hit by the sink as it rushed towards him! Little did we know it would be sometime before such luxury would be available.

Later on we were to learn that Heathcote Valley recorded one of the greatest ever ground accelerations in the world, 2.2g and that the simultaneous vertical and horizontal ground movement was nearly impossible for buildings to survive intact.

We left to join our family at Mount Pleasant; we arrived to find two much traumatised grandchildren and an American visitor who was staying with my son and his wife. We set up a make shift safety zone on their deck, the children were shaking so much they could not get warm we piled blanket after blanket on them and wrapped them up like cocoons. They had been at school at Redcliffs, had witnessed the rock face falling and heard the terrifying screams of children around them including their own. Each shake bought new terrors but finally the children settled and waited for the return of all the missing adults.

Our son was out with his sister (the children’s mother) checking and warning people to get out of their homes, the side of the road at Mount Pleasant was slipping and the houses below were sitting on the edge, not even stairs to gain access. Their Dad was the other side of town as was Aunty. Six hours later all arrived home safe but their stories of the journey back to Mount Pleasant were like a disaster movie, wading through liquefaction and water, going past cars that had slid in massive holes, riding a bike with no brakes kindly loaned by a young teenager on finding out that Aunty still had a long way to go. Dad negotiating broken roads and liquefaction, bridges down. As my sister said a few weeks later, with so many of us in Christchurch the family in UK were fully prepared to hear bad news, all I could say was we were being looked after!

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