– Decanter Bay Road, Little Akaloa, Canterbury, New Zealand

[Written after the 4 September 2010 quake]
My husband and I were spending the weekend in a little pole house holiday home right on the beach at Decanter Bay – next to Little Akaloa on Banks Penninsula. I woke first at 4.35am to a terrific noise and banging, the power was off, the house was pitching in all directions at once and I was being thrown around in the bed. I couldn’t lift myself off the bed due to the force of the quake so I lay there absolutely terrified thinking the house was going to collapse.

Once the quake stopped, our first thought was to get out of there as we didn’t know where the epicenter of the quake was and were worried it was out to sea meaning a tsunami could well be coming our way. So we threw on shoes and jackets over our pjs (it was bitterly cold frosty night), grabbed our dogs and got into the car.

We were on the valley floor and needed to head up a very high hill to get to safety, the problem was that the road was extremely narrow (only the width of 1 car) and the drops were sheer. The landscape was covered in massive boulders – we didn’t know if there were slips or if there were loose boulders that would be dislodged in an after shake. We went partway up the hill and met up with 3 car loads of other residents, we followed them to the homestead at the very top of the hill. Ruth and Michael, the owners, were wonderful, they made us cups of tea, let us use their phone and fed us porridge made on the bbq for breakfast while we waited for daylight. We were horrifed to hear on their radio that Christchurch had been badly hit, we were all worried about family and friends.

Reluctantly we returned to the holiday home at first light and quickly packed up our things then headed for home in Rangiora. The trip home was frightening as we saw many slips and had to stop to move boulders off the roads as we went. We passed so many houses with fallen chimneys, walls and collapsed roofs. Even worse were the frighteningly huge cracks and holes in the roads and the silt mounds everywhere from liquifaction of the soil.

Many roads were blocked due to cracks and broken bridges and our trip home took us almost 3 hours when normally it would have taken us about an hour and a half. Once in Rangiora, we headed straight to family, reassured that everyone was safe and well, we headed to our home, opening the doors with great trepidation expecting fallen ornaments, pictures and food but not a thing was out of place! We couldn’t believe we had been so lucky.

Later on we discovered we did sustain a little damage, our brick home had cracked and broken mortar round the bricks on two sides of the house and a our bedroom and en suite floors now slope towards one corner.

My sister and her family live in North New Brighton and had to leave their home because of burst water and sewerage pipes so they are staying with us now while they try to find another house.

Our business is right in the city centre where the worst damage was, the area was cordoned off and no one was allowed in until the buildings had been passed as safe, we were allowed back in on the Tuesday after the building was ‘green stickered’. We were so lucky as we had broken glassware, fallen computers and papers etc but no real damage. We employ 12 staff and in all only lost three days of work, so we have been extremely lucky.

Once the 7.1 quake was over, I found the after shocks terrifying, it took me several days to stop shaking and get my breathing back to normal. We own a two storied house and we were all too frightened to sleep upstairs for over a week. We still have bags with basic supplies sitting at the back door and park the cars out of the garage so we can get away quickly. I sleep every night with a torch tied to my wrist as I can’t bear the thought of another quake in the dark.

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