– Level 10, BNZ Building, Christchurch Central

I was at my desk at work. My work was on the 10th story of the BNZ Building in the square. I had slipped off my shoes, and removed everything from my pockets. This included keys, wallet, and cellphone.

The earthquake hit and I went to my normal place, between the door. The jolts were so big I decided it was not a safe place to be, so I decided to go towards the couches. As I ran over there another jolt hit and I landed on my bottom (from this I have a number of carpet burns, broken nails and a sore bottom). I then was at the couch. I flipped the couch over and by the time that had happened the shock had stopped. I don’t know how long it was but I estimate 12 to 15 seconds. I could hear a friend shouting “Where do we go?” during the quake. Then I stood up. The fridge had fallen over with cans over a 3 meter area. I looked back at my office, contemplating getting my shoes, and other stuff. Someone suggested not to bother. My office door was closed and I saw some kind of white pebbles I assume was from a plant had wedged in the frame of the door. I assume, but didn’t see, that everything is off the desks, and most things have fallen down.

I climbed over the cans of drink and went to the fire exit. The first view we saw was a very dusty square, with the cathedral spire fallen onto the ground. As we walked down the stairs, we saw more of the view, and saw at least one window from our building that had been smashed. I was concerned I was not wearing shoes, as we went down the stairs we talked about aftershocks, and I was talking to a colleague about some other things I don’t remember. When we got to level 4 I saw some cracks in the floor but was relieved we needed to turn right to the next stairs at that point. We got out, and our CEO led us to the center of the square. I remember having a bunch of about 9 colleagues there. I tried ringing my wife but the cellphone towers were a bit busy. I recall a colleague thinking about her family in Darfield, and the discussion turned to the epicenter. We hoped that the epicenter was under us otherwise somewhere else would be worse than the CBD. I looked at our building and saw that each window had a blind in a different position, the horizontal blinds had fallen down with the force. I said to my boss that I was going to meet my wife at her workplace (preschool), and starting walking – still wearing my socks. I walked past the square aquarium movie theater, and looked up to where others were looking and saw about 20 cracks in the side of a building, which looked just about to collapse. i saw a large bus driving over huge bricks and glass. I walked further down Worcester and saw a woman crying and holding a baby. I talked to her and she said she didn’t know where the babies Mum was. Then an aftershock hit. I started jogging towards my wife’s work, down Gloucester and then got there (Armagh/Montreal) and found liquefaction. I walked through and saw all the members of the preschool getting ready to go outside. We helped get them to Cranmer Square and waited until all the parents had picked up their kids. I sat down with a few toddlers and they were a little bit upset. Some of them were crying for their parents. One by one the parents turned up. Some of them had come from a long way away such as Riccarton or Ferrymead. The traffic meant that it took many hours for them to get to Cranmer Square. I waited on the ground as the earth moved east to west, north to south, and cuddled two redhead 4 year old twins that were sitting on my lap. Luckily they had connected with me as I have the same red coloured hair as their father. I was cold, so I sat in the car to warm up a bit. My colleagues walk past heading for Hagley Park as they were told the city was getting evacuated.

Part Two – Driving home

A friend had got our car from around the back of the preschool so we were ready to go. I borrowed jandals and a towel from a workmate. This was to wipe my feet clean of liquefaction. I’d also borrowed a sweatshirt because I was getting cold in my t-shirt. My wife and I drove the car away from the park and immediately a large shock happened. We could see the lampposts, buildings and people shaking. The people looked like they were on a surfboard trying to grab for something and almost falling over. We drove down Montreal st and then made our way down Salisbury. A rastafarian looking man with a cigarette had jumped out of his truck & was directing traffic, he pointed for us to turn the wrong way into Durham Street (One way). We started travelling very slowly towards Bealey. There was a large truck blocking the street and I assume it was because of potholes, we slowly drove around the truck and turned right into Durham Street. At this point we looked out the window and saw a two story house collapsed onto the first story. The second story was one of those flats that leans over with no kind of supports. Eventually we got to Edgeware Rd. The traffic crawled. Our cars petrol was on Empty. We turned into Cranford, and turned right into Shirley Road. Shirley Road was chaos. There were a lot of cars. We spent 40 minutes driving very very slowly down this road. There were people, holding their shoes, walking in the middle of the road. This was because the street had about a foot of water, we assume liquefaction and burst pipes. This was a harrowing time for us as we were just about to park up in a dry spot and walk the rest of the way, due to no petrol. Eventually we got to the palms and traffic started to clear up. Before we knew it we were on Gayhurst Rd, we had suspected that the Gayhurst bridge was out. We turned into our driveway and were a little relieved to get home in one piece.

Part Three – Home

We looked around the house and found that the major problems were our the kitchen, the lounge & the spare room. The house had no power, no sewerage, no water and no Internet – but the landline still worked. We started to clean up a little, which involved sweeping smashed glass to the edge of the kitchen, and taking photos of smashed plates (for insurance) before throwing them away. We grabbed our two emergency kits and got everything we needed ready. My pregnant wife started packing our bags for a potential getaway. For dinner we got the barbecue started and warmed up some ravioli from a can. We decided we would stay the night at the house and then drive to get petrol in the morning. A friend of the landlords came around to help with the roof. It took him an hour to drive there from St Albans. The roof was missing 32 roof tiles. However, it started to rain so he drove home again. Then it got interesting. We had no petrol in our blue car and our white car had a 1/4 of a tank. The rain got heavier and heavier, and the day got darker and darker. It all happened so fast. As the day turned to night we found the house had about 6 leaks. Every time I put a plastic container under the leak another one formed. The worst leak was in our bedroom wardrobe. I took everything out of there and threw it on the bed. There was also water just running down the walls of the hallway. We could barely see anything, as our torches don’t work that well. But we were going on where we could hear the trickles. While i was dealing with the leaks my wife was organising where we would sleep that night. She was on our emergency-kit non-wireless old-school phone which we had plugged into the landline. Our first plan was to drive to Nelson. It would be dangerous and the only way to do it would be to get petrol first. The second plan, which was much better, was to get to our friends house who had power & water. We packed up the white car with anything we could find. Blankets, Pillows, Emergency Kit, Clothes, Suitcases. It was hard to pack clothes with no light. We spent some time securing the garage (as the power was out and the garage door was basically unlocked) and then left in the white car.

Part Four – Driving to a Friends

Eventually it was time. The sky was dark and it was still spitting. There were no lights on the road, or in the houses, and the road was dark, silty, with pot holes, sink holes and liquefaction everywhere. We drove slowly, 10 to 20 kilometers, we drove down Gayhurst, then New Brighton Rd. All the traffic lights were out. We turned into Marshlands Road. This road was very damaged. I made sure that I carefully drove around cones, and around rubbish bins that had been placed onto the road to warn of 2 meter wide & deep sinkholes. The lights on the car were pathetic. You couldn’t see anything. i was relieved to be travelling behind a medium size truck. When the truck went over a piece of road that had been lifted up or down, I slowed more. Eventually we got to Briggs Rd. The road here didn’t have any problems. I was more relieved. I slowly turned right into another street although it was difficult as I couldn’t see where the road was because it was so dark and my car lights were facing the wrong way. We drove down Innes Road and started to speed up a little we suddenly saw a road drainage metal square that had been lifted by the quake. It was too late the car crunched straight over it. Eventually we got to Papanui rd, the liquefaction here was rife. We kept travelling and then got to Wairakei Rd. We turned right and in a little while the houses started to have lights. We were amazed! 5 minutes driving later and THE STREET LIGHTS WERE ON. OMG. It was so much easier with the street lights on. The yellow glow gave us a lot of hope. Before we knew it the traffic lights, houses and street lights were all on. Then we passed AN OPEN PETROL STATION ! We decided we would get petrol after arriving at our friends. When we got there we went on the internet and before we knew it we were asleep. The aftershocks that night were bad, but we felt safe.

Part Five – Day Two

In the morning we packed up. We looked up Cheneys Road onramp on Google Maps to see where it was for later. We also borrowed a siphon tube from our friends place, then drove back to our flat. On the way we passed a Shell petrol station that had about 50 cars waiting in line. When we got home and surveyed the house. I looked in the wardrobe and found that the leaking wasn’t as bad as we had thought it would be. Some of my clothes on the shelf in the back were wet so I hastily put them on the clothes horse. Our mission was to pack everything we needed into the blue car, but it had no petrol. The night before I had tipped about 4 liters of petrol from the motor-mowers Petrol Can into the blue car. The petrol indicator was still on Empty. We tried to siphon petrol from the white car to the blue car but found that the siphon wasn’t long enough so we gave up. I decided we should ring up a Rangiora petrol station to see if they still had petrol. The man said that they had petrol. We made sure we brought our two emergency packs with us to Nelson, just in case. After securing the house as best as we could, we started the drive to Rangiora. There were no dramas on the road. We passed a house that said Free Water and was essentially a garden house coming out of someones fence. We drove 60 km/hr on the 100/km motorway. The reason for this was to conserve petrol. The petrol indicator was dropping slowly and was now on the line. We got to the petrol station, and to make a long story short, waited 45 minutes for petrol. Our side of the street was definitely the slowest but at least all the cars were travelling the same way through the petrol station. We filled up the tank all the way and started driving towards Nelson.

Part Six – Nelson

We arrived in Nelson at 5:00 pm 23rd Feb, 28 hours after the quake, and have been staying with my wife’s Mum ever since. I have been working from home, getting up at 5 am, and working whenever possible to make sure our clients stay happy in this tough time. We made lots of tough decisions to get ourselves out of Christchurch. The landlord has inspected our house and it is structurally safe, and the roof has bits of tarpaulin over the holes. When our power is back on we will get an electrician friend to double check that the rainwater hasn’t damaged the electrical system in any way. After that we will have to check the hot water gas system and fill up our 30kg rockgas bottle. As of Thursday 3 March 2011 we have no power or water. One of the reasons I wrote this story is so that I don’t forget some of the details. I hope it wasn’t too boring to read.

The underlying reason for leaving town was to make sure my wife & our wee son in her tummy are safe, healthy & not too stressed.

Final Update – Thursday March 3rd 2011
The building beside my wife’s work is unstable and is in the cordon, so she won’t be there for a bit. My work is in cordon and our CEO has not been given access to it yet, we’ll see what happens. Our flat in Christchurch has no power, water, sewerage or internet. It does have a landline. We have been buying a lot of water and have ran out of room to store it. It’s now temporarily at Family’s in Stoke. I’m still missing my wallet, cellphones, keys & a pair of shoes. I found a phone and have bought a sim card with my number on it. I still have no drivers license so hope the police won’t put me in jail. We may be travelling to chch on Sunday.

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