Photos credit to Nick Maley
February 22, 2011, 1.51pm.
I was just getting out of the house and felt the earth shook. Looking around I saw the power lines and the power poles shook violently. The trees were shaking, deep in the ground, a rumbling sound, loud and scary. I walked a few more feet before falling on all four. Oh that was a huge earthquake I thought.
I immediately ran back inside the house, checking everything is okay. Then there was another earthquake of a lesser magnitude. I have to tell the world, power still on, so I turn on my computer and updated my status. That was at least a 6+ on the Richter scale. In the meantime, my wife went down to school down the road to check on our kids. Apparently the school was sending the children home, no more class for the day. Checking on the neighbours looks like our neighbourhood not badly affected.
Ambulance and fire rescue sirens were heard everywhere. I grabbed my camera, and got on my bike to check on my neighbourhood. The road was jammed, made worse by dead traffic light. People are leaving the city centre in their cars. Papanui was quiet, the mall already closed, well at least it is still intact. All businesses, banks and offices already evacuated and closed. The road to Merivale is badly damaged, by liquefaction and flooding. Grey fine sand oozed out of the ground by the roadsides and in the middle of the road. Some part of the road was heaved up while lower sections were flooded. Liquifaction brings out a lot of ground water and sand from underground. It’s like a few inches of rain in a few seconds. Fields flooded like a lake, streams and drains are deep in water.
Few older houses lost their heavy walls and chimneys. I saw an old house next to St Andrews College that has its entire roof collapsed, heavy tile roof. If the last earthquake the top section of chimney fallen to the ground, this time I saw the whole section of chimney fallen to the ground. Signs of liquefaction was everywhere, car parks was flooded, with mounds of white sand all over the place. In the middle of Merivale a section of concrete facade has fallen down blocking the main road. Citizens and bank workers donned orange vests and directing traffic. At Merivale I saw hordes of people walking from the centre of town, looking sombre, on twos or threes, carrying their handbags and luggage. Like scene from Sept 11, a lifetime ago.
I went as far as Bealey Avenue, and as I expected the city block is cordoned off. I was at the roadside near Southern Cross Hospital when I felt the ground rolled and saw dust billowing from a building 100 meters away. Another big earthquake! That was 2.50pm, two hours after the first one, with countless of smaller ones in between. Bealey Ave was gridlocked, and still hundreds of people are leaving on foot from the central business district.
I cycled back home, my battery gone flat. Cranford St was flooded. I have seen more citizens donning reflective jacket and directing the traffic at intersections.
An old gentleman shouted at me, “Sir, what do you think of shaky Christchurch?” Poignant moments. At the end of Cranford St I met Steven MacDonald, a colleague from years back at Hotel Grand Chancellor. He walked home from the hotel, still in uniform.
“Good to be alive!” he said. “The hotel was shaking so bad it almost falling down. Some housekeepers didn’t make it out of the hotel. “ he continued.