Back in September the city of Christchurch, New Zealand was hit by a devastating magnitude 7 earthquake that rocked the city while the world watched. On February 22nd it happened again. This time a 6.3 magnitude quake hit near the city causing more fatalities and destruction than the one in September. In fact the February quake is now the second deadliest earthquake in New Zealand history, 70 years to the month after the most deadly one, the Hawke’s Bay quake of 1931 (Stuff.co.nz).
Stacey, a native of Canada, has been a resident of Christchurch for four years. She sent this email to her friends and family on March 1st and generously allowed us to republish it.
It has now been seven days since Christchurch was hit with yet another earthquake, this one proving to be the most devastating one yet. Here’s an update from my perspective, and I emphasize that this is my perspective only – for more detailed coverage, check out www.stuff.co.nz.
As I mentioned in my last e-mail, for the first 3 nights after the quake, 2 friends and I stayed with my friend Johnny at his dad’s place outside of Christchurch. We spent the days watching the news, which seemed bizarre and far-removed from our location, where we hardly felt aftershocks and had all services. On Friday, I heard that power and water had been restored to my house, so we decided to pack a lunch and spades, and venture into the city. Getting to my house took far longer than usual – road closures throughout the city are causing major congestion. Many roads have developed bumps and sinkholes – some spanning the entire width of the street. Many traffic lights are out, water mains have burst and buildings have collapsed onto streets. Let’s just say driving around town requires extra vigilance!
We made it back to my place to find it relatively unscathed. It has definitely shifted a lot, as most of our doors don’t quite close anymore, and there are cracks in the walls. I have power, but my hot water cylinder needs repair, so cold water only. Also, water isn’t flowing into my toilet, so to use it we need to fill a bucket and pour that into the tank to flush. Not too bad, considering all water needs to be boiled before consumption anyways.
34% of the city doesn’t have water yet. If you do the math, that means that approximately 125 000 people have no water, and therefore, no toilets. These people have had to dig toilets in their backyard until a portable toilet turns up on their street corner. Apparently portable toilets are being shipped in from all over the country to meet the massive need. For those of us who can flush, the District Health Board has advised to conserve, telling us via the 6pm news, ‘If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.’ Bizarre and almost comical getting these instructions in a press report on the news!
I have resolved to pace myself and be careful not to over-exert myself when it comes to helping others. It is clear that this will be a long road to recovery, and I will be of no use to anyone if I burn out after a week. So I am trying to alternate days of helping with days of rest for now.
About half of the city has been badly affected by liquefaction. I’ve spent a couple days helping clean it up. This is very heavy to shovel, and there is anticipated to be 200 000 TONNES of it removed from properties around town. It needs to be hand shoveled out of properties, and carried by wheelbarrow to the curbside, where the city council will pick it up.
The silt which has come up from the ground is often mixed with sewage, due to pipes bursting. So our city smells pretty bad, and now that it has been warm and dry for a few days, there is silt dust blowing through the air. On a hot day like today, you bike around town (best way to get around these days), only to get sweaty, which causes the poo-smelling dust to stick to you. Yum. Nevermind the fact that you’re breathing this dust in, and can feel it coating your teeth. I saw lots of people around town with dust masks today. If it doesn’t rain a bit to settle this dust, I might start wearing a dust mask while biking.
The death toll has risen to 155 now. I am very fortunate to not know anyone personally, just friends of friends. We got some of our boys together for skate bible study last night, and it was amazing looking around the room and being more thankful than ever that we have each other. We had a great talk with the boys, probably the most intimate time I have ever had with them, with some of the boys who are normally very staunch opening up and sharing their feelings and fears. It was a really special time, especially hearing them pray and thank God for their safety and asking Him for help to get through this. I love our skate family so much, and am so thankful that we all still have each other.
It’s getting late, and I should wrap this up. In short, I am doing well. There are moments that the reality of this gets heavy. Everything from the enormity of this tragedy, and the reality that the CBD, where I spend almost every day, will be closed for weeks and weeks, to the smaller realities, like the 2 nearest supermarkets being closed due to earthquake damage. One is condemned, and the other has had a bad fire, and is closed indefinitely. This sounds small, but neither me or my flatmate have a car, so now we’ll be walking or biking with our household groceries from about 2 kilometers away.
I was looking forward to a better year financially, but now i have lost sources of income, losing my hours cleaning house, and Cheapskates is closed indefinitely. The uncertainty can be overwhelming. And many people are leaving Christchurch, which is hard too. But, we have each other, and we will stay strong. I am so aware that I am far more fortunate than many people in Christchurch at the moment. And seeing people pull together to help one another out gives us a lot of hope.
In closing, here are the lyrics to a song I find quite encouraging, which we sang on Sunday night, when friends gathered at my place for church.
“You’re the God of this City
You’re the King of these people
You’re the Lord of this nation
You’re the Light in this darkness
You’re the Hope to the hopeless
You’re the Peace to the restless
There is no one like our God
For greater things have yet to come,
And greater things are still to be done in this city. ”