I had other posts prepared, but what is happening during the last 24 h in New Zealand changed my mind. From my point of view, this experience was the strangest one I’ve ever felt. I don’t exactly know how to describe it. It makes you feel unsafe. I can’t imagine how people felt it at the epicentre (90 km north of Christchurch, were I live). The saddest point is that two people died after this series of shakes.
It was 20 minutes past midnight of Sunday 13th when the earthquake happened. We just arrived home after 3 days along the west coast. On Friday we were driving near Hanmer Springs, on one of the roads closer to the epicentre of the earthquake, to go to Reefton and Punakaiki through Lewis Pass. We had never imagined that this road would look like a “gruyere cheese” now. We have driven there 6 times already since we arrived to New Zealand this winter (summer in the north hemisphere).
I was about to sleep when everything started moving in a very weird way. I stepped for a second under the door frame as an instinctive reaction. As the shake was getting harder and it was not stopping I ran downstairs to the entrance of the house. All houses were trembling. I felt myself trembling with no control. A bus in the street was moving due to its tilting suspension system. But I really didn’t know what to do or where to go. I remembered Rambo when he said: “I can´t feel my legs”. I didn’t. Not even some minutes after the shake. It lasted for 3 minutes, but it felt like 10.
My Dutch roomies and I were a bit lost. After the shake we stayed in the living room for 3 h reading the social networks and the webpages of the government and the geology department. Talking with families and friends. We couldn’t fall asleep because there was a tsunami alert for the entire east coast. The first kilometre of the coast of Christchurch inland was getting evacuated to prevent the possible wave. Some people from the city moved to higher grounds. The memories from the earthquake that shook this city in 2011 are still very present. We stayed home because we live far enough from the sea.
And then, unexpectedly, the first aftershock arrived (over 6 level quake). It felt a bit like the first one but shorter. Again we went to the entrance of the house and we saw everything moving. We sat again in the living room until around 3:30 am, when I went to sleep. I was the last one. I still remember feeling more after shocks while lying in my bed trying to fall asleep. But next morning was Monday, and we were supposed to go to work to continue with our internship projects.
Just after waking up I could see some photos of the earthquake in the region of Kaikoura. We were driving along that coast road just some weeks ago. It was an impressive road along the cliffs until the Kaikoura peninsula. There, we were able to go to the Ohau Stream Walkway track to see the amazing inland place where hundreads of sea lions go to mate in summer. We saw some of them playing along the stream and some hundreads of them lazily lying on the rocks at the coast. It was one of the most impressive experiences I’ve never had. Probably this track looks way different now to what we saw 2 months ago.
This morning we were about to head to work at 8:40 but someone called from the office saying that today the workplace was closed for prevention. The after effects and the tsunami alert were still a bit high. At midday, at around 13:30, we felt another strong quake above 6 level, again coming from the region of Kaikoura. After it I tried to sleep again because, to be honest, last night I didn’t sleep a lot. During the day, the tsunami alert had been reduced, and the aftershocks didn’t seem to be as strong as before. Nevertheless, we will be feeling them for weeks (every 4-5 minutes there are relevant shakes near Kaikoura reported).
This experience was not in my “to do” list when I came to New Zealand. But you can never predict something like this. Let’s see what happens during the next days and weeks. We can’t live thinking on it or being scared about what could happen. At least I will try to do the normal things I was doing until now.
Finally, to conclude I would like to say one thing to mother nature: “I know how you shake, I felt your 7.8 strength in first person, and I respect it but I don’t like it. Your bouncing is necessary but at the same time dangerous. Next time you want to dance send us a Facebook notification about your plans. Otherwise you can always post a short text on Twitter. This is how we work up here now.”
Christchurch 1:57 am of Tuesday 15th.