I was working in Radio Network House and lunchtime came along. I was going to get a bratwurst form my favourite stall in the square but on a whim I turned into the Raj Mahal and ordered take-away. There were two of us waiting there when the quake hit, slowly at first so we had enough time to look at each other, pausing to see if it was passing or not. It was not. The other person went for the door, the glass door. I didn’t think that was a good idea and collected him on my way into a solid corner.
All sorts of things rained down around us and at the lull, those in the restaurant part came through to find a way out. The window had popped and we all clambered out over the fallen masonry.
I went straight to Latimer Square, a muster point for the company I was working for, and reported in. I was probably a strange sight, covered all over in dust and bits of debris.
I was concerned then about my flat mate, a backpacker from Germany. I lived on Latimer Square and went to the apartment block but there were emergency services people already checking it and advising against entry. One of them on the premises checked my apartment but no one was there. My flat mate joined me in the square soon afterwards, after having dodged flying books to get out of the library.
Well, we could not get in the apartment and I suggested a walk around the city, if we could, to try and find food and water. We walked south, managing the shifting pavement under our feet. We turned west, finding nothing for food or water. Heading north again we came to a fruit and veg shop and stocked up. Continuing on we found a service station on Bealey Av selling water from the forecourt.
It was nearly 5 hours later that we were back at the start, having witnessed devastation, liquefaction, shattered roads and bridges, trees down near the Botanical Gardens. Well, we still could not get into the building. It was now cordoned off. We looked at each other, with only what we stood up in. I said: “Do you want to get out of Christchurch?” “Yes,” she said, “but how?”
At that very moment I received a text on my phone. “Do you want to get out of Christchurch?” It was from a good friend. “Yes,” I sent back. “Where are you?” his message was short and to the point. “Dunedin, leaving now.”
We walked and hitched towards the airport, getting a little wet in the rain, the dusty debris turning a bit muddy. We were taken into reception by the Customs officers near the airport and given coffe and biscuits. They were very kind.
My friend from Dunedin, Andy Cooper, arrived and bundled us into his car. Then he turned around and drove back. When we arrived, he had accommodation set up for us at the farm where he was staying. It was amazing.
While there, my work colleagues still in Christchurch had been able to get my laptop and camera out of Radio Network House. They very kindly got them to me in Dunedin. I owe them for that.
We finally got back into the apartment to get our stuff by Easter. Without all the help we had from other people it would have been very difficult and stressful. As it was, we were well looked after.
My flatmate, now in possession of her backpack, camera and personal gear, continued her New Zealand holiday.
We were very lucky to be uninjured and to have the help of so many people. That kind of help is hard to repay but we won’t forget. Our thoughts went out at the time to all those less fortunate than ourselves.