Sunday, 11 December 2016

Mother Nature sends us a reminder

So, like I said in my last post, we had made a surprise trip to Blenheim for Dad's birthday.

Turns out we surprised more than just Mum and Dad - the nephews had been kept out of the loop as well ! We all went out for dinner that evening which was enjoyable. We spent Sunday - birthday proper - catching up, sharing morning tea with other family...and inevitably discussing a bit of family tree. 

It had been pretty wet on Saturday, but was looking a little brighter on Sunday. Lauren was keen to go see "her" cob cottage. She even mentioned it as we had crossed the Wairau River on our way from Nelson to Blenheim on Saturday. But the river was so high with all the rain I didn't fancy driving along the riverbank. On Sunday, the river levels had begun to drop but the road up to the cottage is unsealed and alongside a small stream (including a ford) which was likely to have been running higher than normal - so again the opportunity was lost.

And so to bed - late as usual. Only moments after I had turned off the light, but long enough to have been half asleep, I suddenly became aware that the earth was moving. Initially, I lay in bed listening to the coathangers clinking against each other in the wardrobe, then it became more violent. The house felt like it was twisting and turning and trying to lift itself off its foundations. I remember thinking in blurry half asleep thought "where is this happening if I can feel it this strongly in Auckland ?" and then "Gah !! I'm not in Auckland, I'm in Blenheim". About the same time things began banging, and crashing and falling. I decided then that the door frame might be where I should be, so I shot out of bed and stood there, holding the frame while the house bucked and twisted and things crashed about. I'm usually a freeze on the spot person, wait and see. Earthquakes don't scare or terrify me. They are just one of those things that happen. It's where we live. But I had never felt anything like this one in all my time living in Wellington or Christchurch. And then it stopped.

The power was out, so the light on our cellphones came in very handy. We all checked on each other - no injuries - and began checking to see if anything was broken. Miraculously just a few cd cases were casualties having been thrown across the floor when the cd towers had fallen over. An orchid in a pot was strewn across the floor as well, and the vases of flowers on the dining room table had fallen over and emptied water over the table and onto the floor. Ornaments had fallen or been thrown from the large wall unit, but landed without breaking on the carpet. Glasses of water on bedside tables had tipped their contents on the floor or on the beds. All the while we could feel aftershocks. Since there was no power, there was no wifi either. Dad had his little radio on. Radio New Zealand were great - imagine doing that show !! So 7.8 near Culverden. Crikey.

Eventually we managed to get some signal outside - yay for mobile data. I text everyone I could think of in Wellington, Marlborough and in Christchurch, checking they were all okay and reassuring them that we were. Neighbours checked on each other and nephew #1 called by to check that we were all okay on his way home to be with his Mum and brother. An hour or so later, with things tidied up and other things moved to the floor - just in case we headed back to bed to try and get some sleep. There was some sleep, but it was interrupted with the earth wobbling constantly. 

In the morning on the tv we began to see the effects and damage. Kaikoura, Waiau, Mt Lyford, Ward, Oaro. Small rural and coastal communities, completely cut off from the rest of the country. Just crazy. I had a few messages from rellies overseas checking in to be sure we were all okay. 

We didn't have time to look at much as we needed to fly back to Auckland. It felt odd leaving it all behind. If not for work, we'd have preferred to stay and help in some way. It felt even more peculiar to be so far removed from it all that we couldn't even feel the shaking - having been in the thick of it initially.

Over the next few days as the media were able to get access to the impact zone our newspapers, online and tv news, social media were flooded with images and stories. The force of Mother Nature is just awe inspiring, yet freaky. Great chasms forming new valleys, monster landslides, uplift of the land and seabed in place up to 2 metres ! giant boulders tossed to the ground, the railway line thrown across the coastal highway and on to the beach, the road subsiding and cracking, the movement north, east and west of parts of the country.

Slowly things are returning to whatever normal is, some roads have reopened, the trip from Picton to Christchurch now takes 7 1/2 hours instead of 4, the earth is still moving. Many buildings in Wellington were damaged and some are being demolished - that was a surprise since the quake wasn't felt as strongly there as it was in North Canterbury and Marlborough. Doesn't bode too well for that big quake they are still expecting. 

My heart is with Kaikoura though, it is where my family settled after first being in Wellington - and leaving after the 1855 quake. Some of them where already there though as they are referenced in diaries and accounts of that quake and its damage to Flaxbourne (Ward) and the Clarence.

Check out these sites if you are interested in seeing the destruction that can be wrought in minutes, by natural forces

and many more - and in case you are wondering, the cob cottage at Bartletts Creek is still standing.

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