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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Some stay, some go - all suffer

Personal note: This reporter parked at the end of our drive on Friday 4th, looking for someone to talk to.  I was en route to pick up my family member, Victor, from Riccarton, but directed them to our neighbour, Helen.  Turns out Helen wasn't home, and they went down to the flat to find someone to talk to.

Some stay, some go - all suffer

Last updated 11:45 06/03/2011
It's 12.51PM on Friday, and Vanessa Kollar is listening to a Civil Defence briefing at Sumner School while a teacher reads to her daughter Yasmin in a tent on the school grounds.

The Sumner residents are some of only a select few who have stuck it out in the devastated suburb. Their house, on the flat, was undamaged.

In swanky Clifton Terrace, high above the seaside suburb, the only sign of life is a couple of cars with boots raised as residents load in whatever possessions they can lay their hands on and leave.

Kollar, her husband Peter and their five-year-old daughter have decided to stay put, despite dealing with a toilet that is a hole in the backyard, no water and a decimated neighbourhood.

Only two of Yasmin's 25 classmates and their families are still in the suburb.

The family's first thoughts were to leave the city and Kollar even asked her husband, a South Island account manager for Fuji, if his job could be transferred to another city. Since then she has realised what the people in a community under pressure can do for each other.

"There is a lot of ingenuity in Sumner," she says.

The Sumner community and school has rallied together to provide entertainment and schooling for any remaining children on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 10am to 2pm, and tents have been set up on the school fields to offer shelter from rain. There are regular meetings to inform residents what is going on, and neighbours are keeping an eye out for each other.

Kollar said an 84-year-old woman on a mobility scooter came by the other day and dropped off some pears for her and her family. They have also had officials come to check on them and have been told their water will be on in a week, "best-case scenario". Unfortunately, the worst-case scenario is five to six weeks.

Christchurch mayor Bob Parker estimates that 70,000 people have fled the city since the devastating quake, almost a fifth of the population of about 360,000 people.

Police said the Lewis Pass between Christchurch and Nelson looked like peak-hour traffic on the first couple of days after the quake.

Many of those who have left either have friends or family in other cities, or holiday homes in areas such as Wanaka, Queenstown, or Nelson.

Auckland Civil Defence officials say that an estimated temporary population of 21,000 is expected to flow into the city. In Wellington, 5000 people arrived in the first couple of days after the quake, although many were tourists who left soon after. Since then thousands of others are thought to have come into the area.

The South Island is also taking a massive influx of people.

On Tuesday, Timaru mayor Janie Annear said that about 7000 people had arrived in the area.

In Ashburton, an hour's drive south of Christchurch, the earthquake welfare centre said up to 1000 Christchurch refugees had come in. About 1000 arrived in Queenstown and similar numbers had gone to Wanaka.

Nelson Civil Defence staff estimated at least 1000 people had arrived, but many more than that were expected to be in the region without the knowledge of authorities, a situation that is being mirrored in Dunedin.

Kollar says she now realises what they have in the Sumner community. They didn't feel they could spend their time racing around the country to avoid disasters.

"It is such a caring community here. In times like these, you have got to remember what you have got."

- Sunday Star Times

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