Tuesday, 22 February 2011

22nd Feb ChCh Earthquake

We had driven to Picton to catch the ferry to Wellington (more on this in another posting, but will limit this posting to the earthquake issues). Sat on the quay we saw the VW Camper “Little Miss Lucy” that we had overtaken a couple of weeks back. I noticed that it had very nice alloy wheels and took a photo for Corin to see as otherwise the vehicle was identical to their camper. As I lowered the camera back down to see the image on the back screen the car swayed and I thought that it may be an after shock. Up to then they had reported 4,500 aftershocks after the September 4th quake 7.1 magnitude. I looked up to the floodlights that light the quayside. These are quite high and slender and I was convinced that I would see them swaying, but no. So I dismissed the thought of earthquake and attributed the sway to probably a passing lorry. As soon as we settled in the lounge (on the ferry) the news came on the TV and there was breaking news of a huge quake (6.3) in Christchurch. Over the next few hours we witnessed the event as it unfolded with live (unedited) footage being broadcast direct from camera to TV. At first it was announced that the Hospital was being evacuated, but later this was soon reversed and they soon filled it with casualties. The city ran out of ambulances and very soon started commandeering 4x4s to take the injured down streets littered with rubble to the hospitals and red cross stations. The airport was closed down except for medical evacuations to Wellington and Auckland. We watched as aftershock after aftershock took more toll on the city’s buildings, with some crumbling “on camera”. By now the Cathedral had suffered major damage with the spire down and all over the square in front of it. A huge rock, the size of a big bus at least, fell off the Redcliffs at Sumner where we had stayed Feb 17th. This landed fair square onto a building below. Cars and petrol tankers came to a stop when boulders littered the road around them.
This morning we woke to the sound of many helicopters going to the south island, presumably to assist with the rescues. At this point in time (noon 23rd) they are still trying to get people out of the debris and they have a confirmed death toll in the 60s with an estimated 100 missing persons, yet to be located. The phones are just about functioning and people being urged to text rather than call to save resources. 80% of the city is without water and some fires continue. People are being urged to create makeshift latrines at the bottom of their gardens as the sewage system is not functioning in many parts of the city. They are setting up emergency funds for people to access, as the banks have shut down and all ATMs are out of action. All the good work that has been done since Sept 4th quake has been undone and overall the damage has been greater. Any unsafe building that we witnessed shored up, awaiting repair, are now most likely down. People are leaving the city as best they can to spend time with friends in outlying suburbs and other towns. At least they will have basic facilities there. I will post the rest of the events of yesterday and today later.
Photos here.

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