Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Christchurch: a personal story

I have received this from a friend. He is an airline steward and was out of town in the USA at the time. He is now based in Auckland but his ex-wife and daughter still live in Christchurch. He received txts from them at the time and has since returned to stay with them.
Hi All
Thank you so much for all your prayers and thoughts for my family friends and city.
Well what to say, my family and friends are all safe. They all have stories which they are eager to tell. My ex *elia burst into tears and shook as we hugged at the airport. We were in the airport pick up zone, we hurried as its underneath carparking building.  She worked in the centre of town,  she had decided to work through her lunch instead of going to Holy Cross Chapel. That decision may have saved her life what she does know is that Holy Cross that she normally goes to at lunch time was totally destroyed and the route she normally takes is covered by bricks and collapsed shop frontages. When the quake hit their bolted down desks uprooted and she was hit shes thinks by it or the computer, she is bruised all down one side but she never noticed till the next day. They ran down the stairs (I believe the rear of her building collapsed but never pushed it), on the street was chaos, she saw things she should not have seen. There was a man shouting keep down the centre of the road, some of the photos you have seen is the street where she worked, it should take 15 minutes to get to our daughter. It took 21/2 hours. The roads were clogged with traffic, cracks in the road geysers of silt and mud, what appeared to be sink holes, she had to drive over traffic islands,she got lost but people were kind and gave her directions as she could not see the map properly.  She toyed with abandoning the car as people were walking faster than cars. Maya had finally been able to contact her, when I eventually got through (it took ages) *elia was crying, could hardly breath, she had inhaled gases, dust and was suffering from shock.
Maya had been at school and was walking outside and going to get her books, the windows were bulging but her school had been earthquake proofed, the girls were gathered in the sports field. Maya left me a message on my cell, I still cannot decifer what the message was she was so upset. I was able to get hold of her eventually and she was okay, quiet calm and she was able to tell me *elia was alright.
My brother was out of town, last time he played a pivotal role within our family. When I spoke to him he was driving 6 hours to get back. At that time he knew his daughter, girlfriend, our mother were okay. He had not been able to get hold of his son nor his exwife. All are safe
My brother in law was in one of the cities hotel having lunch, he ran out of the restaurant on the ground floor, the building opposite had collapsed, he like so many people abandoned his laptop and car and started the long run out to his home. He was lucky he thumbed a ride and a shuttle driver picked him up and coincidentally was going to the same place. He got hit by something and has a hurt leg but did not notice till later that night. He still has the napkin from the restaurant
A friend of mine, was in an old building in town, they rushed to get out but the quake had jammed the door shut, the whole structure had moved, it took ages to get out. The tears in his eyes as he told me what happened.
My friend works in the largest shopping mall on the east side of town, he too abandoned everything including wallet and house keys. He waded through the mud, water and sewage to get home. His partner works 15 minutes walk in the other direction, he was not home, so he went to the back up meeting place, then to other friends places. He knew his partner was okay but it took along time to find him.  My friend has I guess what you call a tick now when he talks about his experience. He suspects the Mall will be condemned
My brothers ex wife was at school in the staffroom, they all thought gee that was one out of the box. One of the local radio stations said more or less the same. It was not until calls got through did they realise how serious it had been.
The death toll is  now 154 and 200 plus are listed as missing. The thing with living in a small city of 400,000 is that either you know someone or knows someone who knows someone. Sadly this is the case, I have several friends who know someone in the ctv and pgg sites. Its so sad, what can you say
The side of town where my family live has hardly been touched, we have a few more cracks in our houses, my front fence fell over in an aftershock just on friday.  We have power on and water and sewage. There  was a morning when we did not have water, but we had water flowing down the street so I got buckets and scooped up the water for the bathroom. My sister in laws house is on top of one of the hills in redcliffs. It will be condemned, the land is cracked and the three level house has cracked and support structures damaged. Saturday her partner and I gathered clothes, papers and a few possessions. I have to confess I was scared as hell, he said its freaky I thought to myself not freaky I am scared stiff, in case an aftershock hits it could fall down. We got told off when we got back. I have a new found respect for the search and rescue guys I tell you – they are the bravest men
The noise of helicopters drone all the time, its an airy sound. Going to redcliffs was indescribable, as I drove, I left my side of town which as I said was unscathed, then as I approached the edge of the city centre, the cracks in the road appeared, the once flat road undulates/rolling, the silt/mud from the liquefaction appears, I looked down streets that have been cordoned off and I could see the police and soldiers and army vehicles. Its quite a shock to see the army deployed on your streets.  There are portaloos and water distribution points on street corners
The closer I got to Redcliffs the more destruction I could see. The seascape has changed, Shag Rock has gone, there are sandbars (?) that were previously never there. Houses with no walls, no roof, rocks that have smashed through walls. Its shocking.
After helping gather some possessions, I put a spade in the back of the car and went off in search of one of the working groups clearing the streets of the East side of town, I drove till I found just a small group of guys, we cleared one streets gutters so they water could flow, cleared the drive way entrances and then helped clear up an elderly gentlemans backyard. He had no water or power but still gave us a glass of juice. The 3 guys  I worked with, 2 lived in a street 2 blocks away (themselves with no water nor power), the other was like me came from apart of town which was okay. Then I drove and found a young father trying to clear a huge pile of sand/mud from his front yard. While we were working a group of 5 joined us, again living outside the area. The liquefaction is weird, its dark grey and there is so much of it, sometimes you just don’t know where it came from, maybe a small hole/crack and yet the amount is amazing.  As it dries it’s a grey dust, the dust swirls.
You probably have heard theres been some looting, its bloody awful and the low lifes should get life imprisonment-but that’s a tiny minority. Talking with the people, there is a sense of overwhelming sadness with the deaths this time, the destruction in the east part of town and the central city being devastated, there is also knowledge this is not going to be a quick fix – it will be years, that with the cbd devastated where and what are the 50,000 who work in the cbd, what are they going to do.   The future is unclear. With so many buildings in the cbd to be demolished.  What everyone says though, is that we are alive and safe - bricks and mortars do not matter. Ours prayers and thoughts are with those who have lost someone and those who are waiting news of their loved ones.

Talking to Maya yesterday, she likes to be with lots of people, she feels more secure when theres more than just her and her mum. She sounds back to her normal cheery self. *elia is sounding better too, she is at work today, they are working out of someones house. My Mother is doing better as well. My niece has been sent to Auckland to friends, my brothers girlfriend is working out of Auckland for the time being.  So things are moving forward which is good.

Its one week one hour since the quake.  As Brian has said the country stopped at 1251 to remember, thank you Brian for attending the Octagon and for taking the video. 85% have power,  55,000 have no sewage system. 50,000 have left by air and another 20,000 expected by the end of the week. The aftershocks are expected to fall off markedly. Today they found a time capsule buried by our forfathers – not sure when or by whom.

There is a real strength and sense of community, people are banding together to help out, helping people we have never seen before and never will again, offering up their homes to house people, clearing streets,  cooking and airlifting hot meals to areas where there is nothing. Free bbqs, giving a strangers hugs,  giving people lifts in cars. A taxis giving free transport. Cantabrians are a resilient lot.

We are all so grateful to the international community, with the extra police and search and rescue teams are fantastic, these are truly the bravest of the brave.
Again I would like to say thank you for all the kind words, thoughts and prayers – I have passed it on. It means a lot to me and to us

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