1 EAGLETON NOTES: An Earthquake, a Birthday and Memories

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Saturday, 21 February 2015

An Earthquake, a Birthday and Memories

Not long after 23:51 UTC (12:51 pm on February 22 New Zealand time) four years ago today I was in The Cottage in New Zealand when I received a text from a friend who was visiting Christchurch.  During the next few hours and for some time after almost everyone with the slightest connection to Christchurch and most people in New Zealand together with the World's press were focussed on the City. I can think of few things that have not affected me personally and directly that had and have continued to have a greater impact on my emotions. At the time I wrote the following post for my New Zealand blog.

Just after 1400 hrs today I received a text from a friend who is visiting Christchurch to say that there had been another large earthquake in the City.   It immediately became obvious that the quake was significantly more serious than the larger quake last September which was further away from Christchurch, much deeper and, most importantly, instead of being in the middle of the night when CBD (Central Business District = City Centre) was empty it happened just before 1pm when the buildings and streets were full.  Communication with the City had been temporarily cut off when power and telecommunications lines were disrupted or destroyed.  It took a short while for the television and radio networks (which were themselves damaged) to get up and running with their independent satellite equipment.

Reference Number3468575[View event in Google Maps]
Universal TimeFebruary 21 2011 at 23:51
NZ Daylight TimeTuesday, February 22 2011 at 12:51 pm
Latitude, Longitude43.60°S, 172.71°E
Focal Depth5 km
Richter magnitude6.3
RegionCanterbury
Location
  • Within 5 km of Lyttelton
  • Within 5 km of Diamond Harbour
  • 10 km south-east of Christchurch

Living in New Zealand one is constantly aware of earthquakes which, generally speaking, do little serious damage.   If one lives in Napier the effect of the 1931 earthquake which destroyed the City with huge loss of life and very significant geological effect in the area one is even more aware of what can happen.

However I cannot explain the feelings of anxiety knowing that someone you know and care about is involved even when you know that they survived the initial quake unscathed.  I cannot even begin to imagine how people with relatives and friends who are missing are feeling at this time.  At the time I'm writing this 65 have been confirmed dead but it is expected that that number will rise.

A State of Emergency has been declared.

The television and radio have been on the air with updating news since the quake.  The friend who texted had no idea of the seriousness at the time because they had no power and therefore no TV or radio.   See TV NZ.  

One of the reasons I'll never forget the date is that it was that friend's Birthday. 

Next year it is my intention to return to New Zealand and my spiritual second home.  Next year it will be 5 years since that particular earthquake. Next year I hope to return to Christchurch and see how much has happened since the 'quake and implant new memories of the City in my mind.

32 comments:

  1. So sad that a lovely city like Christchurch could be literally shaken to its foundations. I was there in January 2012 and the central business district remained fenced off like a ghost town. How can developers move in with any confidence when the seismic future is so uncertain?

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    1. Yes it is a great sadness YP. I suppose there is something deep in the human psyche that is essentially optimistic. The first surveyors said that Christchurch, though seemingly the perfect place for a city, was the last place one should be built. Now it's being rebuilt with the latest earthquake technological building advances. If another quake were to strike though whilst the buildings might stand the psychological damage could be even more immense.

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  2. I think every Kiwi remembers where they were when they heard about both earthquakes and probably always will. And all Kiwis must now have a deep appreciation of the resilience of the people of Christchurch.

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    1. Absolutely Pauline.I wasn't in the country at the time - I was in the middle of France and heard about it through communications via the internet otherwise it might have been weeks before I'd known.

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  3. I am very sure that friend will never forget that particular birthday!

    This time of year (Napier's Art Deco weekend - 1931 memories too) I always get a spike in people visiting the post I did about the Napier Earthquake too.

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    1. I'm sure that she won't Kate. I've never looked to see the viewing figures of my Napier earthquake posts.

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  4. PS it will be great to see you in 2016! If not before!

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    1. It will be good to see you too Kate.

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  5. Events like these are certainly watershed moments. We are helpless for what seems like forever.
    Great that you're going back to New Zealand.

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    1. Yes Red nothing is ever the same after such moments.

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  6. Now that is something to look forward to! A reflective day for us all here in Christchurch. :)

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    1. Yes Fiona for me it's been reflection and renewed anticipation.

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  7. I've been following Fiona's blog for some time now and can only say that I truly admire everyone who has decided to stay in Christchurch - or even moved there afterwards, to help rebuilding the city. Earthquakes rank very high up on my "Things I Am Scared Of" list. And with such undiscerning and undeserved damage happening to so many people's lives, it becomes all the more impossible to understand why people would go and wreak havoc on places in their own countries during civil wars.

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    1. Oddly Meike it's never occurred to me to be scared of earthquakes. The ones I've actually experienced though scary at the time have always been relatively small and fleeting and once the building has stopped shaking the fear disappears too. I'm not sure how I'd feel if I lived in Wellington though.

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  8. I remember that date so well as it was the day I was flying to NZ and one of the worst hit areas was a place we had been planning on settling in. As it turns out we were very lucky that move didn't happen. It has disrupted and effected so many lives and still continues to do so.

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    1. Gosh Serenata I didn't know that. It must have been an emotional time for you too in the circumstances: an 'almost' return home.

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  9. Oh, I do remember this, Graham. And I can certainly feel your anxiety in what you wrote on that day. We have the same kind of thing here in Georgia with tornadoes. The little house where we lived for years in Conyers was partially destroyed on March 31, 1973. All of our childhood toys and most of the photos were blown away. (This was a Saturday, so they think that helped save lives, since it hit some large warehouses that were closed.) They found my Bible at the church on the same street, it had been blown there by the wind. Scary when these happen, you never know where they will touch down. It's better now, they show the tract of the tornado on radar street by street!
    I really want to see New Zealand!

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    1. Well Kay I hope that you do see New Zealand. It's a wonderful country and there's plenty of tramping (hiking/walking) for you to do. As for tornadoes I think I'd be a lot more scared of them than earthquakes (unless I were to be living in urban California or Wellington).

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  10. What a terribly worrying time for you. Anniversaries are poignant things, aren't they?

    I'm so glad you'll be able to go back this year. You must miss it, and all your friends.

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    1. Yes Frances anniversaries are although I have no idea why: it defies logic. I miss NZ and my friends terribly : sometimes it's much worse than others. But then I try and think of all the good things about being with my friends and family here as well.

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  11. I remember following the Christchurch earthquake news on yours and other NZ blogs. But I could not have said offhand now exactly when that was. What does stick in my mind is that I learned so much more about the consequences from blogs than I did from the official news here (which of course reported it just after it happened - but then dropped all the remaining tiresome mess rather soon).

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    1. Yes Monica I can understand why it wasn't so newsworthy outside of New Zealand once the initial furore had died down. Of course it dominated the news in NZ for months and even several years afterwards.

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  12. I was sad to see your post on my blog - and I'm sorry to have made you feel even more homesick. I am however VERY pleased that you are planning to return to NZ. I will look forward to reading the postings. I wondered whether to put anything about Christchurch on my blog. That is where we were staying. There are still many issues there. Our inlaws must have been some of the last people to look around the cathedral before it fell. They were staying in a hotel very nearby and had just come in when they were both thrown across the room. We looked for their hotel in November, but it had been demolished.

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    1. Jenny my homesickness is of my own making. Things can trigger it but in reality it is up to us all to cope with the things life throws at us. NZ was a wonderful thing to happen to me and I long for the life there but, as I said to Frances, there are lots of good things here as well. I'm greedy that's the problem. I want both my lives.

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  13. I can't believe it has been four years already. Amazing how time flies when you are ........ I watched the news broadcasts intently after the earthquakes. Big Bear and I had visited New Zealand during that year and were lucky enough to visit Christchurch. I so fell in love with the whole country. If we were not late in our middle age and did not have so many holds on us here in the States, I could not think of a more wonderful place to live out my life. Well, maybe Nova Scotia.

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    1. Peace it's a very easy place with which to fall in love. If I had been younger when I first went there and had had a skill that they needed (which I don't have) I'd have been very tempted indeed.

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  14. As someone who has lived most of her life on the other side of the "ring of fire" from New Zealand, I've learned that nothing quite puts things into perspective like an earthquake. May the West Coast be spared the big one they keep nattering about. Love to you, DeeDee

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    1. Of course DeeDee the other side of the "ring of fire". As I said in an earlier comment I would not want to live in urban California.

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  15. We live well North of Christchurch on the Main Island and often Swim in a River between two Bridges. We are always aware of what may happen if an Earthquake struck while we were there. Not that it has or probably ever will but there have been many small quakes in the area over the last few Years and One bridge underwent repairs after shifting on its piers somewhat a few years back. I think the posibility of a quake at any Time creates a certain interest. My Son visited Christchurch last Year and was shocked by the lack of actual progress in rebuilding the place. There are Often Telly reports on the problems People are still having with Insurance and the Government Agencies One wonders how Napier and Other Cities in the past were so quickly rebuilt while nowadys it seems such events are fraught with delays (and no doubt as with any Government Exercise in cutting costs) Carpet Baggers making fortunes from their actions.

    One wonders at times if the number and size of Earthquakes throughout the country has been somewhat downplayed of late http://geonet.org.nz/

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    1. Peter I think that most people who live in New Zealand have to take a view on earthquake probability and balance that against the ordinary business of living. The problems faced by the re-building of Christchurch are certainly complex.

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  16. I'm glad to hear that you are planning a trip to your "other home" next year.
    Missing loved ones can really pull at your heart strings, and I understand the greedy effect of wanting to live in both places.
    I did not travel to visit my family of friends in the US last year either, but I was lucky, they came to visit me instead.
    Believe it or not I'm looking forward to your trip back to NZ and to all the lovely posts that will follow.
    Absence really makes the heart grow fonder.

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    1. Thank you Virginia I know you were sad not to be going and glad to have them suddenly arrive and surprise you. As you say missing loved ones tugs at your heart strings.

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