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Monday, February 28, 2011

New Christchurch to rise after earthquake

New Christchurch to rise after earthquake

Last updated 06:52 28/02/2011
Christchurch Mayor Bob Parker this morning urged all New Zealanders to plan for when a big quake may strike, as the Government started to reveal how the city would be rebuilt.

The death toll from Tuesday's quake stands at 147 and police say it is likely to rise above 200.

The first funeral for a quake victim will be held today, with five-month-old Baxtor Gowland to be laid to rest this afternoon.

Parker said today the quake showed that everyone in New Zealand needed to be prepared. He said his mind turned to Wellington, which sat on the country's most well-known faultline.

Parker urged people to put aside emergency supplies and have a plan in place for what they'd do if such a disaster struck again.


Cabinet will this afternoon discuss its plans for the city, with a temporary CBD and imported housing in the mix.

Prime Minister John Key has ordered advice from Treasury on the feasibility of a quake levy, but was concerned it would dampen economic activity.

Treasury is also urgently compiling an indication of the likely cost of both quakes which Key said would probably be higher than the $14 billion floated so far.

The massive cost of rebuilding infrastructure is likely to be picked up by all taxpayers regardless.
Key said it was not "feasible or practical" for Christchurch ratepayers to shoulder 50 per cent of the cost as normal.

As many as 500 CBD buildings may be demolished, but rebuilding will not start till aftershocks stop.

Former mayor Garry Moore said Christchurch had an opportunity to build an "environmentally sound, fantastically state-of-the-art, 21st-century place that will attract the brains and the thinkers of the world. We lost a lot of our beauty and that has to be rebuilt, in a modern way."

As the city looks to its rebirth, a lucky few are celebrating the arrival of precious new life that the earthquake helped hasten.

On Tuesday morning, a midwife told Jo Blackman her baby's birth was days away. But the contractions began not long after the quake hit at 12.51pm.

Tuesday quake 'no aftershock'

Tuesday quake 'no aftershock'

Last updated 05:00 28/02/2011
"That wasn't an aftershock," geologist Robert Yeats says of the earthquake that struck Christchurch with deadly force last week.

Professor Yeats, professor emeritus of geology at Oregon State University in Corvallis, has questions about whether last week's tremor was an aftershock of last September quake or a new quake in its own right.

"It might be a separate earthquake, part of a sequence of earthquakes. It is quite far from the Darfield aftershock cloud, and its fault plane solution is different," he said.

"However, there are a number of examples of earthquake sequences migrating along a fault plane.

"One rupture builds up strain on other parts of the fault, and causes other parts to rupture. Analogous to pulling buttons off a shirt."

Yeats says it generally takes many years before seismic activity can be considered a new quake rather than an aftershock of a previous one.

"That's a point of debate among seismologists. But you can't paint all aftershock series with the same brush."

More detailed investigations would have to wait until the search and recovery operation was completed.

Although in the South Island the Hope, Marlborough and Alpine faults are better known, earthquakes near or under Christchurch were not unexpected.

A research paper commissioned by the NZ Earthquake Commission in 1991 predicted moderate earthquakes under the Canterbury Plains and Christchurch itself.

It also signalled liquefaction.

With the benefit of hindsight, Yeats said that perhaps a seismic survey of the Christchurch metropolitan area might have given some warning.

Tuesday's quake caused so much damage because the shaking was very intense.

Peak ground acceleration was up to 2.2 times gravity.

"Most cities in the world would be totally flattened by such acceleration," Yeats said.

He sung the praises of New Zealand's building codes following the earthquake in September.

He compared the massive loss of life from Haiti's similar magnitude quake to the "success" of Christchurch's 7.1 experience.

"You have to realise that New Zealand has some of the strongest building codes in the world, and those building codes are respected.

"That means you have loss of life, but it's in the dozens or maybe 100 or 200.

"If the same earthquake were to happen under a city of that size in a developing country, the number of deaths would be in the thousands, if not tens of thousands.

"Turkey, for example, had great building codes but that didn't keep tens of thousands of people from getting killed in the 1999 Izmit 7.6-magnitude earthquake.

"Because they weren't paying attention to those codes," Yeats said.

After many decades of studying earthquakes all around the world – from Haiti to Afghanistan – Yeats knows the power of hope and urges Cantabrians to keep theirs.

"Miracles happen every day in my world," Yeats said.

UC Student Volunteer Army

Student army on the move

Last updated 05:00 28/02/2011
Thousands of student volunteers are helping to clear silt-covered streets after last week's devastating earthquake.

The Student Volunteer Army was formed after the September 4 earthquake, when hundreds of Canterbury University students helped residents to clean up the worst-affected suburbs.

Group founder Sam Johnson said more than 3000 students had taken part in the latest volunteer effort since it began on Thursday.

An administrative team of 100 people were helping to co-ordinate the work, with volunteers working through sections of the city "quite methodically" to ensure that work was completed as quickly as possible.

"Instead of having five people spending a day on one property, we have 20 people spending one or two hours – it's a big morale-booster."

Group members were meeting regularly with Civil Defence, Fulton Hogan and City Care to determine which parts of the city they should visit.

Johnson said the group had received donations of food and supplies from all over the country, as well as a $20,000 grant from the Ministry of Youth Development.

He hoped a nationwide wheelbarrow appeal would help to address a current equipment shortage, which was hindering volunteer efforts.

Organisers were also trying to keep volunteers motivated, so they would work for as long as possible.

"We can't let people get too bogged down in the emotional side of it.

"If we want to keep them volunteering, they need to enjoy themselves," he said.

Johnson was at an emergency management conference in Wellington when the earthquake hit, but flew down to Blenheim and drove to Christchurch that night.

Anybody wanting to volunteer, or who needs the group to help in their area, can register at

Enduring Images of an Unforgettable City - Rosemary McLeod

Enduring images of an unforgettable city

Last updated 10:16 27/02/2011
MY PHOTOGRAPHS of Christchurch mock me now writes Rosemary McLeod.

They record a city that belongs in my memory, filed away with everything else that will never be the same.

I was there in February two years ago. Then, as now, it was hot, in the last flush of summer and heading towards autumn, with the first leaves starting to turn. The Ellerslie Flower Show, then as this year, had been about to happen in Hagley Park. An offer of free entry this year from mayor Bob Parker's office is kicking around my house again, but I won't be there; nobody will.

The city's gardens, nostalgic for England like so many of its ruined old buildings, were one of the reasons why we'd idly thought we could retire there one day. Its old and lovely trees - introduced species from the other end of the world, a bit like us - seem to have survived last week's catastrophe in a way that so many human beings sadly didn't, their roots running deep and stable, like the city's quaint stone buildings and modern high rises all seemed to be, and were not.

My photographs show French marigolds, phlox, sedums, salvias, lion's tail, and almost black- leaved red dahlias, stunning at this time of year. They'll be blooming now, but in a grieving city.

I brought back images of two stunning herbaceous borders - Sir Miles Warren's at Governor's Bay, and the one in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens that I've always made a point of visiting when I've been in town. They're an old- fashioned type of art form, the way I see it, a luxury needing constant attention, models of planning, foresight and skill. Garden designers have to imagine a border through all the various plants' phases of growth and dormancy, and in every season, to ensure there's always something the eye can rest on with pleasure.

Sir Miles's garden - how ironic this now seems - was enhanced by architectural salvage from old demolished buildings. He had a gift for integrating it with faultless placement, like the top of the Greek column that seemed to have tumbled into his vegetable garden in an ancient cataclysm, a visual joke.

His home was badly damaged in last September's quake and no doubt it is again. I hate to think of that idyllic, orderly world of his tumbling chaotically downhill, nature having the last derisive word on human endeavour. For ages, his border was my screen saver. Its colouring, textures and design seemed to encapsulate serenity.

I wonder if the communal garden in Lyttleton has survived, and whether they'll still have Saturday markets on the hillside selling local produce, old- fashioned Eccles cakes, bunches of proteas, and irresistible junk. The Time Ball Station seems to have crumbled, perhaps beyond recovery. I won't be having scones and tea there again with the friendly women who helped restore the 19th-century living quarters in period detail, down to the sack apron in the kitchen. And did the gaudy Volcano Cafe survive? It looked so cheerful.

The places I stayed, and where I ate meals, are history. I hope the antique dealers I always looked in on - Derek and Justine - are safe and their best treasures are unharmed; that Scorpio Books is OK; that the shabby motel where my little boy loved bouncing on the trampoline withstood the shocks.

I have my own map of Christchurch in my head, with imaginary lines between these destinations. It is now erased. It's the trees I hold on to in my memory now. I think of tall copper beeches, maples, rhododendrons and oaks keeping mansions safe from prying eyes, and framing Hagley Park, where people gathered in the midst of disaster, too stunned and shocked to be glad to be alive.

The trees have survived. If only we had their resilience.

Rosemary McLeod is a Wellington writer and Focus contributor.

There Goes the Neighbourhood - Joe Bennett

There goes the neighbourhood

Last updated 12:37 26/02/2011
I'm sitting in an armchair and eating a cheese and tomato sandwich for lunch. As I eat I idly watch the goats in the sanctuary on the other side of the valley. Suddenly my house is thrown about, flung side to side like a rabbit in a dog's jaws. The chair is bouncing. I grip the arms. A painting flies from the wall and cartwheels along the sofa. Twenty-four fat volumes of the Encyclopaedia Britannica crash from a top shelf.

A mob of goats streams down the fence line in panic. I am aware of their bleating above the noise of the quake.

Ten violent seconds, perhaps 15, and it's over. When it stops I sit on for a few more, adjusting to a changed world. In the kitchen every cupboard has flung itself open. Bottles are smashed. Gin. Jars of jam. Bags of flour. Soy sauce. Plates. Glasses. The microwave has crossed the room. I call Blue my dog. Nothing.

I find him in the garden, trembling, his ears back. He doesn't come to me. Then the first aftershock hits, sharp as a rifle shot. Up on the hills there's a great crashing of vegetation. Rocks are cascading. A small one, the size of a beach ball, bounces down the sheep paddock, leaps over a fence and a retaining wall and smacks into a wheel of my trailer. Boulders the size of small cars cannon down a farm track.

A neighbour emerges. "You OK?" we shout at the same time.

"My kids," she says, "my kids are in town."

"Can I help?" I shout, knowing that I can't.

She shakes her head, goes back inside.

Blue has disappeared. I run down the drive. A fat boulder has come to rest on the road. I can't see why. There's nothing to stop it carrying on down the steep hill to the port below.

Everything is still. I notice that no birds are singing. I knock on the door of a couple aged 80-something. "Come in, love," says Mona. She's laughing. Ivor's inside with the digital camera photographing a lifetime's worth of trinkets, smashed.

"Do you need a hand?" I say.

"No love, no," says Mona. "Alan'll be round in five minutes. We'll put him to work." Alan's the son-in-law, former chief of the Lyttelton volunteer fire brigade.

My cellphone beeps. "Blue's here," says the text. "Here" means Gill's house a mile across town. Blue's only ever been there by car.

I go home, survey the mess, pick a few things up, don't know where to put them, sit down and light a cigarette. Aftershocks rock the place intermittently. A while later, I drive down to the port, slowly. A woman is standing on the street, a shawl round her shoulders. She is doing nothing. I stop.

"You OK?" She isn't. She's pale, staring.

"I've just had my operation," she says. She gestures feebly at her house. Like many houses here it stands on poles. "I haven't been in. I don't want to go in. Have you got a cigarette?"

She is shaking so badly it takes 10 seconds to light it. A neighbour appears, puts an arm round the woman, leads her away.

A stone retaining wall has spread out across the road like a delta. Water's gushing from beneath it. An old wooden cottage seems intact but there's now a deep black gap between it and the road. A woman stops me to ask if I know where the water main is. I don't.

"No worries, love, no worries," she says, "we'll be sweet." And she smiles with dirty teeth and pats my arm.
London St is cordoned off already. The egg-yolk coloured wall of the Volcano Cafe - how many meals have I eaten in there over the last 20 years? How many beers drunk? How loudly have I laughed in there? - has collapsed. The front window's blown out. You can see into the roof space.

Next door the concrete facade of the fish and chip shop has toppled as a single slab and landed smack across the footpath. Underneath it there'll be a couple of tables and chairs. The place is always lunchtime busy. Red-billed gulls flock here to scream and fight for chips. There are none here now.

The awning of the Lyttelton Coffee Company has heaved down and in through the glass frontage. Plate glass has exploded from the newly opened supermarket. Somewhere down the street an alarm is sounding. Otherwise it's quiet. Few people are about and they are just gawping like me. Those who were here at the time, shopping, working, drinking coffee, must have gone to find families, to check on their houses.

A mongrel scampers under the cordon tape, his body low, his tail clamped between his legs. I call him. He stops, turns to look at me. I click my fingers, kneel, make soft sounds but he turns and dashes on, just going away. He runs over shattered glass.

There's a heap of loose bricks beside the north wall of The Loons, our theatre- cum-club. The plaster is crazed.
Where the wall meets the roof there's a hole a couple of metres wide. The company gets back from Rotorua tomorrow and we open a new show here next week. There's a poster on the wall advertising it.

On Norwich Quay the Royal and Lyttelton hotels appear done for and rubble has flattened a parked car.

The building the rubble fell from is now frontless, like an opened doll's house. The two upstairs rooms look untouched - armchairs aligned to a low table, pictures on the wall - but with nothing between them and the open air.

They'd just started to repair the Black Cat Cruises office after the September quake. The scaffolding now lies on the road in a heap.

On Oxford St, the Norton Building has simply gone, a couple of businesses with it.

Its second storey was a sprung dance floor unused in years and dating from I don't know when.

There are soldiers on street corners with radios, soldiers who happened to be on a ship in port. They look about the age of kids I used to teach. They are cheerful.

"Hey, Joe," says a man I've drunk beer with in the Volcano. We shake hands.

"Mate," I say because I don't know his name. "How you doing?"

"Box of fluffies," he says and laughs. "You?"

"Never been better. How's your house?"

"F...ed," he says.

I fetch my car and think for the first time to turn on the radio. There is news of mayhem over the hill in Christchurch. I turn it off.

I drive slowly up past two ruined churches, past people just standing in doorways smoking.

A little girl is running up Oxford St alone. I am about to stop when her mother comes out of a gate and the girl clamps herself into her embrace and they stand there rocking. Reserve Tce is cut across a steep hillside. The houses on the downhill side have garages on the roof. There are fat cracks in the road.

Blue greets me with frantic delight. Gill hasn't yet been downstairs to her living room.

We pick our way down over fallen stuff - paintings, boxes, books and more books. Her kitchen's a mess. We stand and we look at it. The heavy old- fashioned cast-iron stove has been flipped on its head. "Later," she says, "I'll do it later."

I drive Blue home. On the living room carpet he finds half a cheese and tomato sandwich and eats it. Through the window I can see goats grazing.

Clifton Hill Evacuated

Sumner residents evacuated

Last updated 11:56 28/02/2011
Residents of Clifton Hill, overlooking the beachside suburb of Sumner, have been ordered out this morning after the risk of landslides became too great.

The hill suffered massive land damage during Tuesday’s earthquake and experts have been monitoring cracks in it since.

At around 7:45am police, fire and ambulance services descended on the hill and told residents to go. “There’s been more subsidence in the hill overnight,” Detective Damon Wells said.

“Engineers have done some assessments and a fly over. They’re currently doing a new assessment.” Residents were asked their names and addresses as they left as police compiled a record of which houses were clear.

Clifton Tce, Panorama Rd, Revelation Dr, The Spur and Tuawera Tce have all been systematically emptied.

Wells said the operation was linked to the large cracks on Kinsey Tce, which was evacuated on Tuesday and had been monitored since.

Clifton Tce resident Mark Young knew something was up when he saw police cars racing up the hill past his home. “We saw seven or eight cars go up the hill.

They were going flat out,” he said. He suspected he would be ordered to leave, so quickly packed a bag and told his son Jeremy to put the cat in the catbox. “There were police way out on the beach.

We thought ‘why are they standing so far out? It must be more than a rock fall.’”

His hunch was soon proved right. “[Police] came over the back, they came over the side fence, through the front, all at once. They were being pretty thorough.”

The Spur residents Brian Reidy and Merryn Dunmill had almost no time to pack.

“We heard shouting about 20 past eight,” Dunmill said. “We sort of ignored it for a while then I said ‘I think it’s coming from next door’.” “These guys were shouting, ‘You’ve got to go now!’ We grabbed a bag and ran.

I couldn’t even get the computer or the cat.” 35 army engineer troops arrived in Sumner around 9:30am for a pre-arranged inspection of the area. Major Christian Dunne said the door-to-door sweep would continue as planned except for Clifton Hill.

The Heart of Christchurch

'This is the cathedral. The very heart of Christchurch in every sense'

Last updated 11:52 27/02/2011
The devastation and frightening aftershocks shake you to the core, reports Adam Dudding.

THE HEART knows when something is wrong. Apart from the broken limbs, crushed torsos and head injuries, cardiac problems were one of the big causes of hospital admissions after Tuesday's quake - mainly people with an underlying heart condition who were pushed over the edge.

I arrived in Christchurch a day after the 6.3-magnitude "aftershock" that brought the carnage strangely absent after the "bigger" September 4 quake.

All the noisy, bloody, dusty drama - those unedited slabs of raw chaos that screened on TV within minutes of the 12.51 quake - was over. The living were still being recovered and the central city was largely shut down, with a cordon excluding all but rescue workers, media and a trickle of inner-city locals packing their dusty cars, or trudging along, wheeled-suitcases in tow.

When I felt my first aftershock a few hours later, it was so small I didn't even see anything sway, yet still my heart thudded crazily. I wasn't frightened in my head, but my body knew to be terrified. I felt briefly embarrassed at being so scared, then shame. So this is what Cantabrians have been putting up with for six months.

It's not enough that the water and power and streets and houses are screwed, there's dust and mud everywhere, that this time there is death as well as destruction. On top of that, you endure shakes that flood your bloodstream with adrenalin, leaving you wired, uneasy and mildly ill.

The first night, worried I'd never sleep, I turned a metal chair upside down at the top of my bed and stuck my head into the triangular cavity beneath it. I knew how pathetic and pointless this was, but it was enough to trick my thudding heart for a few hours.

Everything is in the wrong place. There's a church steeple on a lawn and army LAVs on leafy streets. There are cars under bricks, tents in the heart of town and civil defence folk in hi-vis vests fill the art gallery.

There is a grey dust that's stirred by every passing vehicle, filling your nose with a gritty chalky smell, and when you walk over the silty mud that clogs the gutters, the smell is dank and mushroomy. On Gloucester St, someone with a dark sense of humour has made a sandcastle of silt.

Thousands have fled Christchurch, but thousands have flooded in. Alongside rescue workers and relatives, it seems almost every Kiwi journalist in the country is here, as well as media from Aussie and the UK, from Norway and Japan.

As the days pass, editors urge staff to unearth new angles. But the bread and butter - press conferences with mayor Bob Parker, Prime Minister John Key, and updates on death tolls and victims' names - is generated from the media centre that sprang up in the courtyard of the undamaged art gallery, next to the emergency HQ inside.
As media numbers swelled, and the smell from the Portaloos by the gallery grew more intense, police arranged media bus tours inside the cordon that stopped, like a Hollywood tour, at the big three horror scenes.

I hopped aboard. You want, and don't want, to see the pancaked Pyne Gould office block that looks like a sinking ocean liner, or the smoking rubble of the CTV building, with the upright bit that refuses to fall, or the ruined and steeple-less cathedral.

Up close, they're just like you've seen them on TV. Awful, awesome, mindboggling. I distract myself from thinking about the bodies inside by watching how TV news is made. A Japanese reporter with gratuitous hardhat likes to strut into shot before swivelling dramatically to stare down the lens. A besuited Australian does five takes in front of the cathedral. "This is the cathedral. The very heart of Christchurch in every sense. Now half the height it was."

A Korean TV crew needs a quote from a local, but settles for Mark Sainsbury, hustling him away to find a photogenic angle. The weight of facts - numbers dead, dollars to rebuild, tonnes of silt - squashes down emotion.

But late on Friday, I'm driving through St Albans and Radio New Zealand plays a montage of quotes and sounds from the week, set against a soaring soprano. It's a cheap trick, but cheap sentiment works, and I feel my chest tighten.

I'm just a nosy visitor - no dead friends or personal loss, and I'll be out of here soon, but this nasty, soul-destroying earthquake is enough to make you heartsick.

- Sunday Star Times

Everything has shifted

Everything has shifted

Last updated 16:39 24/02/2011
Nothing is where it used to be. For reasons best known only to my shell-shocked mind, this is the phrase that repeats in my head like a mantra, like a tattoo, as I trudge like an automaton eastwards down Cashel St. The Silver Fox and I are burdened with as many of my possessions as we could reasonably carry including a rugged chilly-bin on wheels. Usually it lives in the kitchen. Nothing is where it used to be.

This is true in both a literal and a metaphorical sense. Everything has shifted. Walls and floors. People. The world has gone loopy. Again. But oh so much worse than last time.

I had just returned from lunch with the Silver Fox in the CBD, on the corner of Manchester and Armagh streets. I had to be back at work by 1pm for a meeting so we said our goodbyes about 12.40pm and were both back at our desks when the quake hit. If we had dallied there is every chance that the Silver Fox would have been walking down a narrow alleyway when the 6.3 aftershock hit. That alleyway is now littered with fallen masonry.

Anyway, one minute I'm typing something, the next moment the solid, modern concrete building I work in has all the solidity of a bouncy designed by Satan.

I jumped up from my chair and bolted for the nearest doorway. And hung on. And, yes, screamed a bit. And I watched as the open-plan office was shaken around as if by some giant toddler with a Christmas gift trying to figure out what's inside.

I'm writing this by torchlight in a notebook at my mother's house where I have returned like the boomerang kid that I am. I am so tired. There are aftershocks every 10 minutes or so. Earlier I tried to sleep for a while on the mattress my mum and I have pulled out into the living room but the aftershocks are so regular that I've found it impossible to drift off. We have torches and a strange assortment of decorative candles.

Because of the lack of power we have no usable phone. My iPhone is in my bag, which is next to my desk, which is underneath a cubicle wall and a toppled shelving unit, along with my wallet, my house keys, my camera. After the shaking stopped I lingered in the doorway (also a fire exit), waiting for my workmates to emerge from under their desks, which they all did, thankfully. I had no qualms about leaving without those things. They just weren't important at the time. We all walked down the fire exit stairs and out of the building with nothing.

The lack of telecommunications means our only connection with the outside world is a battery-operated radio. The lack of ability to talk to other people is frustrating but it's good to be able to hear other people's stories sitting in the almost dark. Though some of the stories are ones you really wish you hadn't heard.

As I live (lived) only a block or so away from my workplace, my friend Tulip and I made our way there once we'd checked in at our workplace's rendezvous point in a corner of the carpark/asphalt piecrust. Our first attempt is abandoned when we realise that Salisbury St near the Madras intersection is completely awash and impassable on foot (unless you happened to be wearing gumboots). So we turn back in the hopes of taking an alternate route. Then Tulip spots the Silver Fox across the street and he weaves through the already gridlocked traffic to get to us. It's unbelievably good to see him. After an appropriate amount of hugging he shows me some photos that he has taken on his phone of destroyed buildings in the CBD and I barely take in what I'm looking at.

When I opened the fire exit door upon leaving our building, the first thing I was struck by, other than the sight of terrified-looking people on the streets, was the amount of dust that hung in the air. In that moment I knew that buildings had come down. I also knew that people would have been inside them and that some of those people would certainly be dead. My brain computed this strange fact in milliseconds but it doesn't truly comprehend it yet. Not at that moment and not now.

The single-level wooden house I rent was munted. It had lost its chimney that survived the initial 7.1 quake and every other aftershock. The fireplace that was removed and boarded up had toppled out into the living room. But more than that, the house itself has shifted on its foundation. Just one look from the street and I knew that it would have to be demo-ed. The foundation is cracked. There's also water leaking from the ceiling. The front doorway is on a decidedly wonky angle. I'd left the 6ft gate open when I left for work that morning. In order to get to the front door I had to pick it up (it's not attached to anything anymore) and muscle it into a leaning position against the house. Nothing is where it used to be.

It was clear I would not be able to stay here so we quickly made the decision to pack up and move out. My formerly sensible list-making mind failed me completely and I spent far too many minutes just looking around at my various possessions where they lay broken and on the floor while the Silver Fox gathered up items like duct tape, tinned food, instant noodles, bottled drinks and so on and loaded them into my soon to be offroad chilly-bin. Eventually I started moving with purpose and sorted through the detritus on my bathroom floor to find my contact lens kit and toothbrush. I amwas completely rubbish at this and couldn't focus. It was like playing "Where's Wally" with toiletries.

I moved into my bedroom and gathered up my glasses, three or four T-shirts, a handful of undies, a wool coat and my most solid sneakers. I was still wearing my work clothes of a wool skirt, tights and boots so I changed into the sneakers before we left. I had to get the Silver Fox to help me right my wardrobe that had fallen over so I could get to a pair of jeans. I was strangely unaffected by the damage and destruction of so many of my possessions. They were just things and I didn't really care about them, not even the flatscreen TV which had fallen off the storage unit it usually sits on.

The Silver Fox (who was being seriously, usefully sensible) advised against including two bottles of his whisky in my emergency kit. I took them out. I kept the gin though. I also put in 3 x 3 litres bottles of water that I had stored at the bottom of the pantry, though I had to dig my way through packets of spice and pasta and bottles of vinegar etc to get to them. I moved from room to room in a bit of a dream as we continued to be rocked by aftershocks. At one point SF stopped me, took a whistle out of his pocket, told me to put it on my keyring and keep it with me at all times. If I'm trapped anywhere as the result of an aftershock he wants me to be able to signal to rescuers where I am. It was the most romantic givt that anyone has ever given me, and that's including wookiees.

We shoved as much as we could into backpacks and a plastic storage container that we duct-taped to the top of the chilly-bin, I grabbed my bike and we moved off to Tulip's house. Because SF's car keys were back at his work (multilevel concrete building in the central city that HASN'T fallen down, thank God) we couldn't drive but the traffic was moving so slowly it hardly seemed like it would be worth the bother anyway. After checking in at Tulip's the Silver Fox and I continued on foot. Both of our mothers live in Linwood in houses that didn't suffer too badly in the initial quake so we were hopeful we could stay there and that we wouldn't need all of the emergency supplies.

And so we walked the few kilometres eastward out of town like refugees. We were not alone. We passed barefoot office workers. People sat on their front fences in small groups, chatting, though mostly people looked haunted. Several people asked if we were all right but we were alive and walking around and had scavenged some possessions so I thought the all-rightness, in this context, was self-evident. The traffic moved at a snail's pace. I felt horribly tired all of a sudden. Each step was an effort. SF tried to cheer me on with the occasional grin but it required too much energy to respond in kind. At one point, while on Gloucester St, we passed a pile of bricks and wood that I remember as being a row of two-storey flats. A distant part of my brain registered that there might be people under all that. Another part of my brain just instructed my feet to keep moving in the same direction and not think about it. Nobody is searching through rubble so with false willful cheerfulness I assume that there was no one home at that place.

Nothing is where it used to be.

After that, my memory starts to become as fractured as the roads down which we trudged. I got no sleep to speak of on Tuesday night, though I have my scribbled notes to work from. More posts on day 2 and 3 will follow. In the meantime I am well. I have food, enough water for the time being, a bike to get around on, internet access and, most important of all, my loved ones. All of my friends and family have been accounted for, though the chances that an acquaintance or a friend of a friend has not been killed is fairly low. There are only a couple of degrees of separation in Christchurch. We all await the announcement of the names of the dead with great trepidation.

So far, we are doing as well as we can despite our world having tilted like a high-rise hotel. Thank you so much for your concern for my safety. Please hang onto that feeling in the months to come. We're going to need it.

Sleeping in Sneakers

Sleeping in sneakers

Last updated 12:54 25/02/2011
Tuesday night was probably one of the longest of my life. Having lugged some essential supplies and belongings to Linwood with the Silver Fox on Tuesday afternoon, we each decamped to our respective mother's home.

En route between the two "mother-hubs", liquefaction is making the roads treacherous so I'm glad to be on my bike but you still have to be wary.

The conditions continue to change with ongoing aftershocks affecting the terrain. There are cracks and sinkholes, floods, and newly born sand dunes. I've often said that you can tell you're in Linwood when you spy four abandoned shopping trolleys for every 800 metres' worth of road.

It's a common sight on the east side of town. These are now being used to mark road hazards.

We still haven't heard from one of my cousins who was working on the sixth floor of the IRD building in town. Another relative stops by whose daughter, by chance, works on the same floor and tells us that the building is standing and was successfully evacuated.

Still, because it was lunchtime there is still a chance she could be a casualty. Probably it's just the telecommunications issues that are preventing contact but we just want to have confirmation that she is okay.

Her brother comes by later as he hasn't heard from her either but tells us there's no sign of her at home, though there are footprints in the liquefaction leading from her front door so it looks like she may have been there and left.

I resist the urge to call him "Tonto" and agree that this is a good sign.

As I mentioned yesterday, we were out of contact for the most part, though my mum's battery-operated radio became a lifeline and a source of information. Listening to the 3 news broadcast at six (who knew you could listen to that on the radio? Not me) was difficult.

Hearing Hilary Barry's voice commenting on footage of the broken Cathedral that I was yet to see, I found myself trying to imagine what it might look like...but not too hard because I couldn't stand the thought of it.

In the end, when I do eventually get to watch television the following afternoon, it's so much worse than I imagined that it's breathtaking. In the universal expression of despair, I simply bring my hand to my open, gaping mouth and stare.

But on Tuesday night all of that is many hours away. My mother and I pulled a mattress out into the lounge and slept on it, so as to be closer to each other and the exit.

We sleep fully clothed and with shoes on. I sometimes check and make sure I still have my whistle in my jeans pocket. We lie awake listening to NewstalkZB and Radio Live.

People are ringing up, telling their stories. I wish very much for a phone that works so that I can ring in too, just to be able to connect with other people, but we don't have one so we just listen. It's impossible to sleep with aftershocks that rattle through, seemingly, every 10 minutes, sometimes several in rapid succession.

A number of times that night, the exhaustion overtakes me and I nearly fall asleep only to be shunted to wakefulness.

It's good having the radio, though, for company. Most people are lovely but talkback being talkback there are always people who come off sounding like idiots.

One woman actually says, and this is a direct quote, "it's like the earth is actually moving". This inspires me to launch into a fully fledged and quite invigorating rant of the "do you think it was like the earth was actually moving because THE. EARTH. WAS. ACTUALLY. MOVING!!!!???" kind.

I'm sure she wasn't fully aware of what she was saying but I'm grateful to her for providing me with a much needed opportunity to blow off some ranty steam. I felt much better after that.

Unfortunately there were much less fun things to listen to. In the early hours a woman rang up, and in a very dead, unemotional, matter-of-fact manner explained to the radio host, Bruce, how her nine-month-old baby grandson Jayden had been playing on the floor when without warning (Tuesday's aftershock came very suddenly) a television fell on him. He couldn't be revived.

He'd been killed. Her voice was so uncannily flat and without emotion that that in itself was upsetting. She was clearly in shock. As were the rest of us.

When morning came finally, I'd had about 30 minutes of sleep. At some point between 4.30am and 5.30am the aftershocks stopped for long enough that I did nod off for a while.

As a result I spent Wednesday being stupidly tired. As in, I've just turned into a barely functioning moron. I have trouble answering simple questions and become cranky. Questions like, "what do you want to eat?" are met with a confused, furrow-browed expression. I get quite snappy. Another side effect of the long night of aftershocks is that when I first get up in the morning I can't walk properly. It's like I've acquired sea-legs overnight and trying to walk on a flat, non-moving surface is totally messing with my sense of balance. It's very disorienting but it does eventually wear off.

Because I was so tired, much of Wednesday is a blur but I did go over to the Silver Fox's mum's house where he's staying. and having heard there is a water tanker at a nearby school we go off with various bottles. There are five adults and a baby at their place so they need more water than they have.

We've heard that water will be available from 11am but when we get there at 10.30am there's already a queue half a block long. There's a dizzying array of vessels being held by an equally dizzying array of people.

The usual buckets and soft drink or milk bottles are there but also watering cans, plastic storage bins, rubbish bins, thermos flasks. Anything and everything that can be used to carry water is being used. We have plenty of time to catalogue such things as it's nearly an hour and a half before we get to the front of the queue. It's such a relief but also a little scary.

This is only day 2. A lot of people will still have water in their hot water cylinders or emergency supplies. What the hell will this queue be like on day 5? When we leave there the queue has doubled. I can't imagine that all of them will get water.

While we were waiting for water, someone pointed in a westerly direction and commented on a building that looked badly damaged. I scanned the buildings directly in front of me. We're at Philipstown School and the buildings are the usual single-level wooden buildings that you get at primary schools. None of them look particularly wobbly.

And then I raise my view up to the skyline and see the silhouette of the Grand Chancellor Hotel. Its misalignment is clear, even from a couple of kilometres away. The sight is, frankly, nauseating. The Silver Fox mentions that his work building is almost right next door to the Grand Chancellor. It's a truly sickening sight.

In the afternoon we have word from my aunt that her house has power so my mum and I decamp to her house.  As we are loading some bedding into the back of her car, we notice that there are advertising circulars in the letterbox. What's odd about it is that they weren't there earlier. We make confused faces at each other trying to imagine why anyone would bother to deliver them at a time like this. Sorry Bond and Bond, but we don't think we'll be taking advantage of your competitive prices on electronic goods this week. It's a serious "WTF?" moment.

At my aunt's I finally watch the TV coverage in shocked amazement and launch myself on to the internet.

I write my post and email it through after checking in on Facebook and Twitter and touching base with friends. Everyone's okay. We also hear from my missing cousin, who has been trying to get a hold of us without success. She and her little boy are fine. It's such a relief to hear. Later that evening the Silver Fox comes over and we sleep together on the mattress in the lounge. I'm still fully clothed including sneakers (and whistle).

I sleep all the way through from 11pm to 7am and do not wake despite several aftershocks, such is the level of my exhaustion.

Thursday morning SF heads back to his family. I stay at my aunt's house. I think about going back to my house to get some more things but in the end I decide not to bother. It's within the four aves so I don't know if I'll be able to get through.

The stink in the toilet is so ghastly that we decide it's probably time to take our ablutions outside so I gather up a spade and dig a hole in the garden.

I get less than a foot deep before the hole begins to fill with water. I'm unsure if this is because the water table is now unusually high or because there's a burst pipe nearby. It could be both. I stop digging.

Despite it's shallowness I'm quite proud of my hole. I find a discarded piece of plywood that my aunt informs me has fallen off the neighbour's house, split it in two and place the pieces either side of the hole to serve as non-soggy footholds. I find a black plastic bin lid that's not being used and put it over the hole to dissuade flies.

I've dug the hole near the back fence and next to the compost bin so I can rest my roll of toilet paper and hand sanitiser dispenser on the compost bin lid. I then "christen" the hole. It's rather unglamorous and I reflect that I am not a woman who was born to crap in a hole of her own digging but you do what you have to and get on with it. As if to belittle my hole-digging achievements, the infrastructure gods see to it that the water comes on almost immediately after that and we find information online that says we're allowed to flush "sparingly".

Sigh. So I've got my arse out al fresco for no reason. And there wasn't even mojitos involved. Tremendous.

There's a lot more for me to say but I have things that I need to do. I just want to say thank you for all your kind thoughts and wishes. They are extremely heartening and touching. It's wonderful to know just how much people care about what's happening down here.

Right now I have power and phone and running water and for the immediate future that's more than enough. Others are not so lucky and, like you, I wonder what I can do to help.

The days ahead are a blank unknown for many of us. We simply live day to day, focusing on immediate needs, immediate tasks. Little things that we can do to make ourselves and each other comfortable.

And we wait, just like you, to see what the next day brings.

Better, safer, city will emerge from ruins

Last updated 05:00 28/02/2011
Two former Christchurch mayors believe their city will be rebuilt and it will be better, and safer, than ever.

Garry Moore said the Government should guarantee a loan scheme for businesses, as was done for finance companies. It would require less money than giving the businesses cash up front and would allow them to resume operations, he says.

If not, businesses would need the finance sector to step up. "We've now got a banking system that gives you an umbrella and when it starts to rain they take it back."

Mr Moore also suggested the Government create a bond scheme that would allow people to invest their savings in the rebuilding of the city.

A national levy, collected alongside income tax, was needed to help fund the rebuild of Christchurch and replenish the Earthquake Commission's coffers. The levy would probably be needed for the next 10 years, Mr Moore said.

"We all need to put our hand in our pocket to help Christchurch.

"Just as we all contribute towards the building of Auckland's roading structure, we'll do the same thing in Christchurch."

Christchurch now had an opportunity to build a model city that would attract people from around the world, he said.

Some people would leave Christchurch, but many homeowners could not afford to and others would eventually return.

To rebuild Christchurch properly a change in planning law was needed so it did not become the pawn of developers, planners and lawyers.

The new city would be a petri dish for the Government to change the way planning was done.

"We lost a lot of our beauty and that has to be rebuilt, in a modern way."

That would mean wooden, eco, three-storeyed buildings. "I don't want to see a brick building ever again.

"We do have a chance to do the new, green, environmentally sound, fantastically state-of-the-art, 21st-century place, that will attract the brains and the thinkers of the world to come and live here."

Mr Moore has suggested an international conference be held in Christchurch with people experienced in rebuilding after disasters, such as from Kobe, Japan, and Darwin, Australia.

Another former Christchurch mayor, Vicki Buck, said people were going to need some form of income in the next few weeks and most were not thinking much further than that.

People needed certainty for the next few weeks and the Government's announcement today would be an interim package with a promise of more to come.

Christchurch would be rebuilt, though it may look different, she said. There needed to be radically different buildings and earthquake codes, and Christchurch people would be "very wary of tall buildings" from now on.

Bus Rescue

'Obvious there was only one person alive'

SHANE COWLISHAW Last updated 05:00 28/02/2011

The identity of a mysterious man who held the hand of a woman trapped in the wreckage of a bus has been revealed.

Lincoln University lecturer Ann Brower was on the No 3 bus in Colombo St when it was crushed by falling rubble.

Several people died but Ms Brower was eventually rescued, suffering a broken leg and severed tendons in her hand.

Speaking from her hospital bed on Friday, Ms Brower said the man she knew as "Rob" had been a lifesaver as he supported her through the terrifying experience before she was rescued. "Rob got to me, he just held my hand and talked to me while the people were digging me out," she said.

"It's probably quite selfish – I should have let him talk to other people – but he stayed with me."

The man who soothed her while she was rescued has been identified as rope access technician Dennis Haskell.

The father of three was on the top floor of a car park building having a smoko break with co-workers when the earthquake struck. Sprinting down the stairwell, he ran around the corner and saw the crushed bus.

Joining a group of people trying to get into the wreckage, Mr Haskell managed to break through fibreglass and cut through steel with a handsaw to get inside.

"After a while it became pretty obvious there was only one person alive ... I could hear her screaming."

He grabbed Ms Brower's hand and talked to her until they could free her. She was placed in a van and that was the last he saw of her.

Mr Haskell had told his family about the woman he had helped but did not realise Ms Brower had survived until he saw the article about her.

The name mix-up was probably due to Ms Brower bumping her head as she seemed confused during the horrific ordeal, he said. "I was asking her a lot of questions and she couldn't remember quite a few easy ones. There may have been a Rob around helping."

It was "awesome" to learn she had survived.

Keeping the Faith

Keeping the faith as city loses its symbols

ONE of the savage ironies of the New Zealand earthquake is that a city named Christchurch has abruptly lost so many of its churches.

To walk through the city streets is to see, not a town in ruins, but one selectively wrecked. It is not, for the most part, a landscape of broken glass and twisted steel. Rather, the clean-up of Christchurch will be counted in bricks -- Victorian-era bricks and stones that have spilled from the walls of the town's most treasured buildings, and nearly all its oldest churches.

Among those destroyed, either partially or entirely, are St Luke's Anglican, Knox Presbyterian, Durham Street Methodist and Christchurch's most famous of all, the Anglican cathedral.

The dean of the Christchurch Cathedral, Peter Beck, says he is not fussed about the stones and mortar of his church, including the landmark spire that slipped from its 200-year-old perch with devastating consequences.

As Beck points out, his concerns rest with the estimated 22 souls, whose bodies lie broken and still unclaimed beneath the rubble. With so many dead now confirmed, and perhaps more still unaccounted for beneath the pancaked floors of the Canterbury Television and Pyne Gould Guinness buildings, Christchurch is more concerned for its people than a steeple.

Yet already, talk is turning to how Christchurch should rebuild and whether this disaster, while unavoidable, was aggravated by a failure to take harder decisions against old, cherished buildings badly shaken in the September quake. As Prime Minister John Key remarked this week, the city has no choice now but to face these questions.

"It is quite clear that there will be a major rebuild and the centre of Christchurch will have a very different feel to it in years to come," he said.

There are three unmistakable symbols in the heart of Christchurch that represent how this old, graceful town, modelled to the same civic design as Adelaide, has forever changed.

The first is the collapsed spire and substantial damage to Christchurch Cathedral. The second is the statue of Christchurch founder John Robert Godley, which now lies prone in the middle of the town's main square. The third is the doomed Grand Chancellor Hotel, built 26 storeys high, in the middle of Christchurch.

Former mayor Gary Moore runs a bar in the heart of the city's historic district and watched from the Worcester Boulevard Bridge as the town shook, people panicked and the Christchurch Cathedral spilled its spire.

"It was surreal," he told Inquirer from his central Christchurch home. "In my mind, I have got a frozen shot of it just hanging in the air. It toppled over and there was an enormous cloud of dust, and it was all over."

Like so many of Christchurch's residents, Moore had an immediate, intimate connection to the disaster. His son Johnny was tending bar when the quake struck. As the ceiling collapsed on top of him, Johnny Moore managed to run to safety. He saw a body in the street, grabbed a motorbike he was restoring with his dad, and drove it unlicensed, unregistered and without a helmet -- waved on by police -- straight home.

As Gary Moore recounted: "He was so traumatised, everybody is panicking and you are in among a bunch of old, brick buildings."

Moore ran Christchurch for nearly 10 years until 2007. If it were up to him, a new Christchurch would be built of wood rather than stone and bricks, and with three-storey limits on new developments.

As we sit in the loungeroom of his old weatherboard house, another sizeable aftershock rocks the bearers on their stumps before they settle back into place. "This house is like an old belly dancer," he says. "This old girl flops and moves around."

Moore isn't advocating that Christchurch go back to the future. Rather, he is excited by emerging, flexible building materials such as laminated wood, which on some measures are claimed to be stronger than steel.

The New Zealand media had many stories of amazing escapes. The New Zealand Herald recounted the experience of two men who escaped serious injury when the ceiling collapsed around them at the local pub -- only to find their car outside crushed by bricks and an entire wall, including windows and curtains, of a neighbouring building.

A couple travelling into the town of Lyttelton had just got out of their car to admire the view when the quake struck, then turned to find huge boulders from the cliffs above the road had flattened the car they'd just exited.

But another man reportedly trying to make it back from Christchurch to his family in Lyttelton after the main quake had struck was hit by falling rocks during an aftershock and killed instantly.

In central Christchurch at the Grand Chancellor, supervisor Jovy Servitillo was on the 23rd floor of what is the tallest building in Christchurch. The quake demolished the hotel stairwell and left a gaping hole, trapping her for five hours in the dark with hotel guests. "We could feel the building sinking. It was so terrifying," Servitello told the Herald.

She told the newspaper she texted family members to say she was alive and to alert rescue teams. A crane winched a platform up to the group, who squeezed through a crack in the wall to reach the waiting arms of rescuers high above the streets.

Local mall worker Tom Brittenden told of helping to pull victims from the rubble in the immediate aftermath.

"There was a lady outside we tried to free with a child," Brittenden told New Zealand national radio. "A big bit of concrete or brick had fallen on her and she was holding her child. She was gone. The baby was taken away."

Hundreds of troops, police and emergency workers raced against time and aftershocks that threatened to collapse more buildings.

They picked gingerly through the ruins, poking heat-seeking cameras into gaps between tumbles of bricks and sending sniffer dogs over concrete slabs.

Teams rushed in from Australia, the US, Britain and Japan and elsewhere in Asia, along with a military field hospital and workers to help repair power, water and phone lines that were damaged in all corners of the city.

Christchurch's airport reopened on Wednesday, and military planes were brought in to fly tourists to other cities.

Officials told people to avoid showering or even flushing toilets, saying the damaged sewerage system was at risk of failing. School classes in the city were suspended, and residents advised to stay home.

The NZPA news service reports the earthquake could cost the country up to $NZ16billion ($12bn) and trigger a fall in the cost of money by half a percentage point as authorities make sure the earthquake does not crush the national economy.

But Key and Finance Minister Bill English said the government could absorb the cost of the earthquake, and credit rating agency Moody's Investors Service said there was no need to reconsider the country's Aaa credit rating.

Key has thanked other countries for support. "I would like to pay special acknowledgement to Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard for her announcement of a $5 million donation to help with the recovery," he said. British Prime Minister David Cameron had contacted him several times.

Christchurch CBD is closed, bringing business to a halt. "They are going to want to operate, the question is what happens to them and do they go and relocate in another part of the city for a while, can they accommodate themselves in another part of New Zealand, but then what happens to those people (staff)," said Key.

Meanwhile Christchurch can expect further earthquake aftershocks for a year, and Wellington faces a higher risk of a bigger quake, according to an Australian seismologist.

"I think there will be lots of aftershocks around Christchurch for about a year," says Kevin McCue, director of the private Australian Seismological Centre.

"But they won't be as big as the latest one. They are likely to get smaller and less frequent."

The Canberra-based seismologist, also an adjunct professor at Central Queensland University, says the big question for New Zealand is what impact this week's quake will have on the boundary between the Australian and Pacific tectonic plates, which runs up the west coast of the South Island, across Cook Strait, under Wellington and up the east coast of the North Island.

"It's got to have some impact," McCue says. "Geological activity is chaotic. It's impossible to predict all three elements -- place, magnitude and time -- but it tends to occur in clusters. If you have one (quake) it ups the hazard. This quake has the potential to load up the plate boundary, increasing the likelihood of a quake at Wellington. Wellington has always been considered much more at risk (than Christchurch) because it straddles the plate boundary."

New Zealand's reputation as the "shaky isles" springs from its location near the bottom of the 40,000km seismic horseshoe knows as the "Pacific ring of fire".

The ring, fired by the movement of the plates that make up the Earth's crust, embraces 452 volcanoes and is home to about 90 per cent of all earthquakes and 80 per cent of the largest ones.

Earthquakes around the ring of fire can cause large numbers of casualties and severe property damage in heavily populated areas such as Kobe in Japan, where a 1995 quake killed more than 5000 people.

This week's quake even shook off a huge chunk of ice from the country's biggest glacier, about 200km east of Christchurch.

No Mercy for Churches

No mercy for churchs in New Zealand earthquake

THEY stood as symbols of Christchurch for more than 130 years. Today those churches lay in ruins.

Christchurch's 19th century cathedral - which dominates the city's central square - sits battered, its spire and parts of the roof and walls collapsed.

But cathedral dean Reverend Peter Beck said its damage was nothing compared with the human toll. "It is devastating about the cathedral, but the most important thing at the moment is not the buildings, it's the people, and we've got to reach out to each other here in Christchurch and Canterbury and do what we can to deal with those who are wounded, those who have been killed and their families," Rev Beck said.

The cathedral is not alone. Other historic churches also suffered earthquake damage.

Knox Presbyterian Church on the corner of Bealey Ave and Victoria St, has lost its windows and much of its walls, while the Chinese Methodist Church in Merivale, the Christchurch Catholic Cathedral, the Oxford Terrace Baptist Church, St Lukes Anglican Church and the Rose Historic Chapel in the CBD have all been affected, along with the Holy Trinity Church in Lyttelton, near the earthquake's epicentre. A church on Durham St has also reportedly collapsed. Cathedral administrator Monsignor Charles Drennan told NZ Catholic engineers fear it cannot be saved. The church suffered damage to two bell towers, bringing much of the front facade down with it.

The cathedral's main dome also has major cracking, while stained glass windows were also "in ruins".
New Zealand Prime Minister John Key described Christchurch - a sister city of Adelaide - as "a scene of utter devastation." Adelaide Lord Mayor Stephen Yarwood yesterday expressed his concern and sympathy.

"Our thoughts are with the people of Christchurch. We can't imagine what it must be like for individuals and families. Our feelings of sadness are strengthened knowing that Christchurch is our sister city," Mr Yarwood said.