Thursday, February 24, 2011


I tried to write a post yesterday about the devastating quake in my homeland. In the end I deleted the rambling because I figured they weren’t my stories to tell.

But today I noticed Melba mentioned that I’d been quiet on my blog and wondered if my people were ok. I forget sometimes about the life the blog has, almost independent of my own.

Around the middle of the day on Tuesday, my phone started vibrating madly. I’m not wedded to my iphone and it’s always on silent while working. For the next hour and a half, while with clients, it buzzed. I Kept Calm and Carried On, with increasing disquiet, ‘til my I finally got a break. Texts and voice messages all said the same thing “Bad quake in Chch”.

I’m from Wellington a city, unlike Christchurch, built on multiple fault lines. We’ve always lived under the shadow of the “big one”. My immediate family and friends are safe in the capital.

But New Zealand is small enough that the degrees of separation are incredibly low. You always know people in other parts of the country.

Unlike during the September quake, which had seemed shocking enough without any loss of life, people I cared very much about had since moved south. In fact, one of my closest friend’s two daughters now lived there. It was unbearable to think of anything awful happening to them.

I’m relieved to say there are no sad stories regarding them. Being the disaster queen, in my mind I was already jumping on a plane to Wellington to be with my friend. Fortunately that has not been necessary. In an amazing twist of fate, her youngest had already planned to travel to Wellington on Tuesday, her father accidentally booking an early morning flight instead of the afternoon one she’d requested. Number two was safe in her house with her boyfriend, unaware til she had power and able to watch TV the extent of the carnage.

I do know of someone pulled alive but injured from one of the pancaked buildings and everyone seems to have a friend or a relative in Christchurch whose house is unliveable. Until the names of the dead and missing are published the full extent of those degrees of separation are unclear.

Christchurch is a beautiful and welcoming city. I worked for an organization in the ‘80’s based there. On work trips I was welcomed into colleagues homes, fed, watered and given a comfortable bed. In the 90’s in Melbourne I went out with a guy who called Christchurch home. We had a great nights in a groovy bar in Lyttleton (the suburb at the epicentre) and in the old arts complex in the city. I’ve climbed the Cathedral’s spire – triggering my first experience of being fearful of heights! Now the memories have begun flowing, I realise it’s been a city of many firsts for me.

I can’t watch the repetitive television footage of the destruction (nor stomach the Australian egocentric reporting) any more but I’m taking great comfort in streaming Radio New Zealand.

For those who are nervous trying to contact Canterbury acquaintances from afar, the google person finder, though imperfect, is worth a whirl.

To get a glmmer of an idea of what Christchurch residents have put up with since September 4th 2010 I challenge you to run the quake map documenting the over 5,000 aftershocks since the initial event. If you don’t have a spare half hour just click on the past 7 days instead.

I promise no pictures of a broken city but the following two images best cover the spectrum of emotions.

Reportedly taken just moments after the quake from the (Port?) HIlls, the CBD is clouded with dust from fallen buildings.
Sorry I can't find the source of this picture. Please let me know, or ask me to remove if you don't wish to share it.

How amazing are these two guys? Freed at last from the pancaked Pyne Gould building.#finallyahappystory

Australians can donate the the New Zealand Earthquake Fund through the Red Cross.

P.S. An email from an Christchurch ambulance officer, read by Danny Watson on NewstalkZB. Harrowing to listen to but at least there are no pictures.

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Anonymous Lucy said...

jay-sus...that photos now got me bawling...wonderful, though.

7:40 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

The triumph of the human spirit.

8:19 pm  
Blogger Marshall Stacks said...

I can't stand the media revelling in their surfeit of Hard News With Vision. I wish their tone had more gravitas and less 'relish'.
I have minimised my own access to it out of respect for all the casualties.
peace and love from all of us

7:44 am  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

The ABC seems to be doing a good job. Though it's getting to some of them. Last night on the 7.30 Report the young journo kept choking back his tears. Am sure actually being there and not sleeping well with all the aftershocks is giving them a taste of what it's like for the locals.

8:09 am  
Blogger Melba said...

Thank you AOF. I haven't watched any of the footage; after being in the 1999 Istanbul quake I just can't do it. Plus the people I'm worried about (and still haven't heard from, but I guess there's limited/no power?) were with me in Istanbul during those bad months.

I can imagine a little of what it's been like for my friends with two little kids, my daughter was 3 in the Istanbul one.

1:26 pm  
Blogger Another Outspoken Female said...

Hey Melba, I'd left you some suggestions on your blog but the first comment got gobbled up in the ether. One was to try the google person finder specifically set up for the Chch quake
It's imperfect but might give you some relief. From what I can glean there were no fatalities in the suburbs mentioned, though that doesn't exclude them being in the CBD at the time. Remember if their house has been damaged and lost access to regular computer not everyone knows how to log onto mail remotely or remembers passwords. Be brave, call the sister.

1:50 pm  
Blogger Johanna GGG said...

It is hard to imagine just how devastating it must be and how it must shake people's faith in the very earth they stand on. I had a lovely visit to christchurch a few years ago and have been so sad every time I hear a news story about the quake - and on top of all the other disasters this summer, the world seems a fragile place!

2:27 pm  

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