Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Pondering Christchurch a year on

It's a year today since Christchurch got the kind of earthquake that has long been expected here in Wellington.

It has been a day for reflection and pondering, not only for the lives lost, and lives disrupted, but for the things I have noticed for myself in the passing of a year. It has been five years since I have been in Christchurch. I've never lived there, and know few people there. But in the sense it could have been (and will be one day) us, it casts a long shadow.

After seeing what happens to them in a big shake, I am much more suspicious of brick and stone buildings than ever before. I am glad my house is made of wood. I'm not so glad the building I work in is brick and concrete, in a prime liquefaction zone, and apparently urgently requiring strengthening to get anywhere near acceptable code. Whenever I'm in the city I look around and note the buildings that look like the ones that turned to rubble.

In addition to the liquefaction zones, I also now know where the expected tsunami zones are, and when in them occasionally mentally plan escape routes in the unlikely event. I'm also never buying property in Petone or Island Bay :)

My house and our cars now have survival kits and water stored, with more than the recommended three days worth (I wonder if that will be amended now after Christchurch's experience). I get nervous when my cellphone isn't where I can see it or reach it easily. Not because of addiction, but after hearing how people aided their own rescue with them I now try and have it close at all times.

I try not to let the car petrol tanks get too close to empty. If you need to get out of town in a hurry stopping for gas may not be an option.

I noted a little while ago I have started thinking of 'Old Christchurch' and 'New Christchurch'. Old Christchurch is gone, the new one is still forming. A few months ago one of the TV networks showed a google earth overhead shot, then eliminated all of the prominent buildings that have since disappeared. It was quite a representation of just how much has changed. I don't want to be a disaster voyeur, but I wonder if the only way to really understand is to go down there and see it myself. I know that some parts of the Old Christchurch I am familiar with are now utterly changed, while others are unaffected.

The biggest change I have noticed both in myself and peers, is that after a lifetime of passing off earthquakes as local events in a city riven with faultlines, our first reaction on feeling a shake now is to wonder if it wasn't worse somewhere else.

1 comment:

missrabbitty said...

your last bit about wondering if the shake you feel was bigger anywhere else strikes a chord. i felt the september 4 original quake. i estimated it as about a 5 in wellington. we have those type of quakes quite regularly. never did i think that it originated somewhere else and would spark such a catalogue of events.
i remember remarking to some christchurch people that i saw about three weeks later about how i was jealous of them getting a big quake as i wanted to experience one myself. i take that back now!