On Monday at 12:02 am, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck New Zealand’s south island near Hanmer Springs. Since then, over 2,000 aftershocks have hit. The earthquake was felt all the way in Auckland – over 1,000 kilometers away. I hadn’t yet returned to NZ from my grandmother’s funeral in the U.S. but my partner said it lasted over a minute and a half and our apartment building rocked in Auckland — a slow rolling motion that seemed to go on forever.
Earthquakes aren’t new to NZ. I blogged about them on Day 27 – earthquakes are part of life when you live in the areas of NZ that are near fault zones. In Auckland we are relatively safe, there hasn’t been a fatality in Auckland from an earthquake in recorded history.
There was significant damage in Wellington though and terrible damage to the Hanmer Springs and Kaikoura areas in the South Island. Kaikoura was hardest hit – all roads into the town were blocked, including one of the most scenic routes in New Zealand, the Kaikoura Coast Road. Electricity was out, fresh water wasn’t available, and over a thousand tourists were stranded with the town residents. Two people died in the South Island – one in a house that was practically demolished in the earthquake.
Wellington suffered no casualties but structural damage has been bad. Four days after the quake, many office buildings are still not re-opened and people are being encouraged to work from home and stay out of the city if they don’t live there. Most buildings have been built to strong earthquake standards and held up really well, but not all were so lucky. Some buildings may have to be demolished and some will require a lot of repair.
But despite all of this, there have been some truly beautiful stories over the last few days of Kiwis coming together to get through it. I thought I’d share some of these:
- Fresh water has been the biggest necessity in Kaikoura. Yesterday, the first overland relief came to the city in the form of a little convoy with a tanker truck carrying water over the inland route from Christchurch to Kaikoura. They had to clear boulders, navigate landslides, and smooth riverbeds as they navigated the 80 kilometers from Waiau to Kaikoura in about four hours. It was an awesome achievement and I loved it even more because the driver and his team were wearing the typical Kiwi uniform of high-visibility vests, shorts, and work boots and at the end the driver simply said “I’m buggered, I need a beer.” I borrowed today’s picture from this article.
- Two cows and a calf became an international sensation after being stranded on a small island of green grass when the world around them slipped away after the quake. They were the lucky ones and were eventually rescued by the farmer who owned the land. Their comrades weren’t so fortunate and the farmer lost a lot of cattle in the landslides. But the cows have become a symbol of resilience and survival and show the level of damage.
- The local Marae in Kaikoura has opened its doors to stranded tourists and residents in need. A local crayfish factory was severely damaged and lost power after the quake and about 13 tonnes of crayfish were in the factory at the time. And along the coast the land raised up after the quake and exposed a lot of crayfish. So the volunteers at the marae were serving lobster for days.
- After the quake first struck, news came in that a truck driver had been seen heading up the Kaikoura Coast just beforehand. Nobody had heard from him and everyone feared the worst because the road was completely obliterated in some places – with one of the mountains literally moving over on top of the road. But he was one lucky guy and a few hours later he was able to get a weak cell phone connection to let people know that he had survived. Apparently hysterical but well, his truck was in between two major slips on the highway and he was rescued. His truck had to stay behind until the road is re-opened which will likely be months away.
- There’s a video that shows the quake and the events that happened afterward, well worth the watch — http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/nz-earthquake/86546340