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article imageOp-Ed: Day three in Christchurch

By Sharon Davis     Feb 23, 2011 in World
Christchurch - It's the third day after the 6.3 aftershock that rather rudely interrupted a Skype chat with a colleague on Tuesday 22 February at 12h51.
As the 6.3 hit:
I was sitting at my desk, having a type chat with a colleague on my laptop... The building started shaking, and it took a few seconds (probably less given how the world slows down in times of danger) to realise that this wasn't just a normal aftershock (we've had literally hundreds after the 7.1 earthquake in September).
The walls were already shaking violently as I hurriedly shut the lid of my laptop (I'd had a near miss a few days before when a picture loosened by several shakes fell off the wall and landed, corner first, just above the on button while I using it - so I wasn't taking any chances!)
I ducked under my desk and turned around to see the room rocking and things falling over and tumbling down.
After the 6.3:
The first thing I did was open my laptop to see if I could check up on the colleague I'd been chatting to, but the power was down. The next was to go outside, assess the damage and check on neighbours. Our neighbour's teenager was home alone, and scared, so I invited her to stay with me. There was liquefied mud in the garden and one neighbour had to shovel mud and water away to get out his front door. Another neighbour's chimney had fallen down and lay on the roof, and our driveway lurched at a new angle... and the small cracks in our house from September had grown a little larger... and stuff was strewn pretty much everywhere.
Mobile phone signal was largely down, so between trying to call or text to check up on my partner, I picked up fallen bikes and other things in the kitchen, pulled out our camping stove and made a cup of Milo.
I then found our battery operated radio - sent to me by our electricity company after the 7.1 earthquake in September for just such an emergency... to keep up to date on what was happening.
It took about 90 minutes before my partner, who was attending lectures at the University of Canterbury, managed to get home by car on heavily congested roads - many of which suffered damage, liquefaction, and developed unexpected sink holes.
Car stuck in liquefaction in Christchurch following the 6.3 aftershock on 22 Feb
Car stuck in liquefaction in Christchurch following the 6.3 aftershock on 22 Feb
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At this stage none of us had any real idea of the extent of the damage in the centre of town. Radio reports were carefully avoiding describing too much detail and focusing on what people can or should do. They reported the aftershock as a 6.3 magnitude and a few anecdotal reports that saying that being shallow and nearer to Christchurch the effects were felt much harder than the earthquake in September - something I'd have to agree with.
Rather than sit at home with no power and water we walked out to assess the damage - which got progressively worse the closer we got to the city. Cracks had appeared in roads, bridges over rivers had been shunted. The grass lawns of Hagley Park were people were mustering were covered with liquefaction and water seeping out of the ground. Many, many old and historic buildings were damaged or had collapsed.
This home suffered structural damage in the Sep earthquake but did not hold up on 22 Feb
This home suffered structural damage in the Sep earthquake but did not hold up on 22 Feb
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The city centre itself was cordoned off, but we could see - by its absence - that the spire was no longer standing.
I'd sent some mobile phone photos out over Twitter and suddenly got calls to send photos off to AFP - which proved challenging without power and limited mobile connection - but I eventually found a motel with a harassed but accommodating owner who had power and working WiFi.
That evening, using head torches for light we warmed some soup on the camp stove and prepared to bunker down for a long and shaky night - but before we got into bed the power came back on.
The phone also started going bezerk as friends called in to find out if we were okay and the South African media also called for updates and radio comment.
That day I was immensely grateful that I was working from home on Tuesday. At work I would have been on the 6th floor where the shaking would have been more violent. Although the building is still standing, the font glass door shattered and several of the surrounding buildings have been reduced to rubble.
Fallen statue of William Rolleston outside the museum
Fallen statue of William Rolleston outside the museum
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Day Two:
It was a rough night with little sleep and several large aftershocks but on day two the water started to trickle weakly in the water pipes supplying out home. We have to boil the water in case it is contaminated, but that is a huge relief, and one less thing to worry about. I spent the morning writing - I work as an online writer and we manage a government website and needed to get some updated information online as soon as possible.
It was hard to concentrate and collate information, and the job took longer than it normally would. We also used the time to email friends and check assure people we were all right and used the Internet to get up-to-date information. I went for a short walk in the evening to see if some of the roads near us had been re-opened. They had, and much to my surprise our nearby supermarket had somehow managed to find staff and start operating... but I got there just as they were closing.
Day Three:
Now that I don't have work that I have to do, and we've tidied, vacuumed, and generally cleaned up the events that seemed so surreal over the past two days are starting to hit home. I'm acutely aware that we're faring better than a lot of people in Christchurch. Only 60% of the city has power and 80% of residents are without running water... and being fairly new immigrants I don't know anyone who is unaccounted for or killed.
The news reports are getting bleaker and the images online more graphic and moving.
The story to get under my skin today is this one by the NZ Herald about 90 English language school children being reported missing. They were in the CTV building.
The events make one realise how fragile life is - and how every much we take for granted - from running water, to the fact that we'll be alive tomorrow...
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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