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Escaping the Earthquakes


As you may have heard there was a rather large earthquake on the 22nd of February in Christchurch. I was at work at the time, I had just finished my lunch and was sitting around the table in the cafeteria. As of the 4th of September last year when the Canterbury region was hit by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake we have had numerous aftershocks and like any other aftershock one does become a little complacent. So this time round when it struck it began with a low rumble and then really quickly build to a point where it became time to move. I jumped up like everyone else around the table, checked that there was no big air conditioning units that was going to drop on me and quickly decided to follow the others and jump under the table while the ceiling tiles fell around us. We crouched under there for what seemed like quite a long time while the violent shaking continued. Then it was all over and quickly and cautiously we all evacuated. Once outside the ground was very shaky with several small aftershocks coming almost immediately, then after about 10mins another big aftershock (5.7) hit while we were all standing in the car park. You could see the waves in the ground, the buildings visibly twisting and the cars all wobbling side to side on their suspension.  After that we were allowed to go inside the building and collect our things we needed to get home and with the power out there was nothing really to do other than go home. At this point I had no idea of the seriousness of what was going on in town and didn’t think much of it. I assumed that there was probably some damage in town and possibly someone may have been killed…but still thought surely not and I trundled off home on my bike.

Columbo Street looking South past the damaged Cathedral

As expected by the time I took off the traffic was crazy and Memorial Ave was grid locked right up around Burnside High School. An emergency worker bus was trying to get through to town and eventually managed to clear a path. Towards the centre of town it became apparent that there was not a lot of traffic around, and the closer I got to town the more earthquake damage I was seeing. Once in Hagley park which was crowded with people walking home I decided to avoid my usual path past the Museum, Art centre and Hospital. I saw two sides of a house that had blown out in Riccarton and as I got nearer the hospital a bit of Liquefaction… I still didn’t think much of it all and carried on home through the slit….as I got closer I then began to worry that possibly the house would be damaged and was relieved to find that although there was some liquefaction in our street, there was none at our place. The front door would not open and there was a few bricks in the driveway misplaced…but that was it really…and thankfully. I had a brief look about the neighbourhood, still unaware of what was happening in town with no power, no internet and no news at all, then headed home and eventually settled down in the doorway riding out the aftershocks until someone else came home! Power was back on by 10pm that night and finally we began to understand the seriousness of the situation.

By the time Friday came around the prospect of heading to Dunedin for the weekend was looking fairly good and the prospect of meeting up with the Finns (who arrived on the evening of the earthquake and bailed to Dunedin pretty quickly) for some Orienteering training was pretty hard to resist. Riki and I took them up to Middlemarch and sent the day training there on Saturday. They seemed to enjoy it and said it was some of the best orienteering they had done in NZ so far. On the Sunday we did a little more training at Cuttance Block which was fairly steep and hard under foot for them! Some of the mapping in the coolest areas is a little bit interesting too I must say… However it was a bonus being able to do some Orienteering, escape the earthquakes and hang out with the Finnish girls 🙂

Eventually though it was time to return to the city of broken pipes, fallen buildings and the smell of sewerage… My Orienteeering event I was planning was postponed this weekend and much of the events in the coming month and a half are also cancelled so it will be a while before there is any orienteering down here unfortunately…so I guess its down to me to make the Orienteering opportunities happen before Nationals in April!

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