Saturday, September 4, 2010

Christchurch Earthquake 2010

Earthquake NZ Style

This morning the South Island of New Zealand experienced a major earthquake rated 7.1 on the Richter scale. That's a mighty big earthquake.

I first heard of it on the BBC World Service because TVNZ wasn't up and running till later. The shock's epicenter was at Darfield about 30 miles outside Christchurch which is the main city in the South Island.

My first thought was NZ doesn't do earthquakes of major proportions. That is silly because it does as NZ is on the Pacific Rim and the next was to wonder if my daughter who lives in Christchurch was OK.  She rang almost immediately to say she was.

Evidently it had happened at about 4 am when everyone was asleep. She had awoken to violent shaking which had lasted for about a minute and she and her daughter had sought safety in the door frames as we are taught to do. The wooden house it appears has stood up surprisingly well although she has lost glass and ornaments. Fortunately for her family she still has power but many do not. Water is another problem  but she has the water in the hot water tank.

The amazing thing is that there were no fatalities. If the quake had happened a bit later and Christchurch had been up and running it would have been different. While I was speaking to her at around 8 am Christchurch experienced a serious 5.1 after shock. 

I have been fortunate in never having been part of a major quake. The nearest I have come to it was while on stage playing 'Polly Brown' in 'The Boyfriend' in Johannesburg as city built on gold mines that collapse  thus triggering minor earthquakes from time to time. One of these happened  while I was alone on stage. There was a bit of a shake enough to make the light holders that hold the gells to jump out of their sockets. As they were about 50 ft above the stage they plummeted down like a shower of knives as I sat and watched as the crashed around me. It was over in seconds.

I took a deep breath and just continued as if nothing had happened and in truth I had no idea of the danger I had been in because these steel holders were like a hail of guillotines. The shake in Christchurch was considerably worse and I thought my daughter was very brave.

But I am proud of the way that New Zealand has coped with the devastation. The building codes although not perfect have stood the city in good stead and nobody was hurt although this is as bad an earthquake as it gets. I hate having to have the building inspector call when I did my renovations as they are very tough here and nothing gets past their beady eyes but now I realise it is a 'good thing'.

The power was down but will be back tonight for most. People are well educated and know what to do. There was no panic. The hospital is up and running and the civil defense and police worked well.

We have civil defense information on the back of our telephone directories. 

A 'big' problem is the cows who have to be milked. The milking sheds have been kocked off their foundations. New Zealand has a lot of cows.

This is a big, destructive event but  a relief  that there is no loss of life and NZ is well organized. We have been lucky and at least like the BOy Scouts motto we were well prepared.

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