Thursday, February 24, 2011



My Dear Friends,

My heart is breaking.

We've just seen pictures of damage in our favourite suburb, Merrivale. The rescue people are now searching for people under the rubble with dogs.

The search for survivors has moved into the suburbs and smaller buildings.

It's believed that there are maybe 150 lost in just 3 of the larger Central City buildings.That is beginning to sound like the tip of the iceberg.

International teams are arriving. They are very welcome. We need them. Everything seems to be extremely well organised. The logistics of feeding volunteers, providing somewhere to sleep and ablution/toilet facilities are mind boggling.

There is huge generousity from the community with food supplies for volunteers and other workers, being made free of charge by SuperMarket organisations, today at least. Most of the warehouses are functioning so supplies are not quite as disrupted as might have been. Some areas have eftpos facilities so people can access money again. Rural communities are not badly affected. City people are being offered temporary accommodation by other Cantabrians and people all over the country.

The damage is unbelievable. Communities are reeling. The organisation of rescue teams and restoration of infrastructure is going ahead in an orderly way.

It sounds as though over 1000 International USAR, Urban Search and Rescue, with specialised equipment are either in the city or about to arrive. Our Prime Minister has a scheduled phone call with President Obama.

At last the workers can be put on a roster system of 12 hour shifts. We are being told by media observers this is a well oiled machine. Even the mayor suggested September 4th was a Training Run for this. I must admit I doubt if we would have got things moving nearly as well back in September. There seems to be an extra-ordinary ability to strategise and make the best of all resources and reach areas in good order.

It helps that a military exercise was in process as the Navy, the ship Canterbury, was in port, Army on the ground and Airforce instantly available. The Canterbury is feeding hundreds of people in Lyttleton.

Yesterday our city son was out on Road safety. He's in shock. He found many people wanted to question their efforts to keep roads free for emergency services. Where they are using soldiers there is not the same questioning of authority. On September 4th he worked 13 hours straight with little food and water. This time he is going away for the weekend. It's a totally different scenario.

Many Christchurch people still have no power so have no idea of the overall damage to their city and the rescue efforts going on. They aren't getting the message to keep off the roads and stay home except for essential trips. They haven't heard that communities, neighbours, need to look after each other rather than depend on the official efforts.

View Larger Map


Deans Ave is to the left on this map, on the other side of Hagley Park. I'm sorry I did not find a static map of this area to embed but you can get a better idea of the layout of Christchurch by making it larger and playing around with it on Google Maps.

There are always idiots, rubberneckers, people going out to take photographs, people who complain about the mayor and his workers and of course looters. There is a report that at least 6 have been arrested and someone who is holding vigil for a loved one trapped in a CBD building has had their house burgled. Not hard when the windows are smashed and the doors sprung open.

Our Government declared a National Emergency. This is the first time in New Zealand's history this has been done. It enables the Government to take action to get essential services up and running as fast as possible and make good use of military personel and International offers of help.

Our Prime Minister made a Chrurchillian State Speech. We can do this. New Zealanders pull together. We will survive and be strong.

He is assuring us that the economic shock will not be as severe as some might think. That said, many people have lost their income and it's almost certain that most buildings within the four avenues will be years in restoration. This is an area of about 3 square kilometres, about 1 1/4 square miles.

Our city son will have work for years to come. The company he works for does road construction. But Wayne and Amanda have a business they are growing. It's called Baby On The Move and was growing nicely with a lot of hard work being put in, mostly by his wife, a trained nanny. Many of their clients were tourists or grandparents etc. with visiting families. They have no idea how long before they will be able to operate again. They have a show room at their home. This is closed as the building is damaged. They have no idea how long before their home will be fit to live in as there is no power, no water, no sewerage, damaged roof and walls. It's fine to camp in.

Yesterday they moved to Hornby, an undamaged part of the city to stay with friends. They had plans already in place to go to a Baby On The Move Conference in Hastings this weekend. Tomorrow they fly out of the shakey city. They are living day to day and not thinking too much about next week.

Statistics. I've been looking at the Christchurch Earthquake statistics and they are mind boggling. Since September 4th which is now being called the Training Run to prepare us for the Big One. As I write there have been 4000, shakes since September 4th. The last one was less than 30 minutes ago. There have been 30 so far today, 74 yesterday and 63 on Tuesday. That's 166 since the one that brought the city crashing down. At least three of today's quakes have been more than 4 on the Richter Scale.

Many people in the damaged suburbs still have no idea of how badly damaged their city is. We were talking to our son last night who was watching TV in the friends home, where they are staying. He was shocked. He had driven around parts of the damaged area during the day in the course of his work. He had ridden his bike around the previous day, shortly after the quake to check on his father-in-law and another relative. Thankfully all were safe. He had seen first hand the damage in the Sept. 4th quake and he'd been getting reports via radio and through his work Radio Telephone. The pictures have shaken him.

Our other son lives south of the city in an area that was barely affected although he said it was a nasty shake. He was preparing a batch of concrete to truck further south to Hororata. This tiny rural community was featured in the September earthquake when the historic church was seriously damaged. Both he and his partner will be able to carry on their lives as usual.

There will be many people, vulnerable people, disabled, elderly and children who are not coping with this major earthquake. They are all being carried in my heart and prayers. There will be many fathers, mothers and other family providers who are in despair of how they will care for their families this time. I met someone at New Year who was taking a break following the September earthquake. He was struggling, his child would not stay in a room alone, could not sleep in his own bed. This is the hidden toll of such an event that no-one talks about.

Some people will carry on as though this is just another disaster and not be affected. We feel shattered. This is the city of my husband's birth. Members of his family have lived there for a century. We are deeply affected and know the places we are seeing which are now broken. Our heart's are sad. We feel for those who have lost loved one's. This is a very personal journey for us. We might live many miles away, 1100 km/683 miles, a journey by car of 13 hours including the ferry crossing of Cook Strait, but this city is dear to our hearts.

We've had to turn the TV off. The stories are gripping us and paralysing us. We are limiting our viewing. I does no one any good for us to hover over TV feeling sick with anguish.

We are comforted that Christchurch will rise up again. Different but equally beautiful, I'm sure. Why not better than before? We have the examples of San Francisco and New Orleans to give us hope.

As I finally publish this post there have been 37 earthquakes today, 1 pm.. The latest was 20 minutes ago, magnitude, 3.7, depth 6km or about 3.7 miles. That's 7 in less than 3 hours, 173 in the last 48 hours. I'm glad I'm not there.


Sam&Donna Weibel said...

Margie, I wish there was something we could say or do to help you feel better in this terrible time. But I know words are just worthless, when it comes to the tremendous loss your country and friends are suffering. I pray the USA can send as much help as possible,my Father always spoke highly of your country when he was there in WW2.I remember as a younger man in 1993 when we had those awful floods and we were put on 12 hour days, with 8 hours of regular patrol and then 4 hours of flood duty.My men and I had no mercy for looters, anyone that would try and steal from someone who was already hard up against was dealt with and imprisoned henceforth. I am sure your Police will do the same.I like the Churchillian statement about your Prime Minister, he sounds like a wise man.I hope he can pull the morale up when things look bleak. Please be safe out there, Our prayers are with you. Sam & Donna.

Karen and Al said...

Our prayers are with your, your country and the people affected. I can't imagine how bad it must be.