Old Stuff 7 – Earthquake blog Part 2 – 22nd of February 2011

I live in Christchurch, New Zealand, and felt like blogging about my experiences in the recent earthquakes.

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Since the September earthquake

Over the last months since the September earthquake, we have had over 4,000 aftershocks, although the time between aftershocks has been slowly increasing. From several a day, down to one every week or so. This is a normal aftershock sequence. Everything was back to normal. We had our chimney taken down following an aftershock on the 4th of October, which caused the top part to shift sideways an inch where it has cracked through. A couple of weeks ago we were finally visited by EQC (The Earthquake Commission – a tax funded earthquake insurance kind of scheme), and they inspected the house for damage and put us on the list to get a heat pump/air conditioning unit as we can no longer use the fireplace for heat. So that’s where we were a week ago.

Tuesday, 22nd of February

We were sitting down in the lounge. We’d just eaten our lunch and were watching a tv show. We felt the first jiggly shakes of an aftershock starting up, and it was quite powerful, so I got off my chair and lay down in front of the coffee table. My husband stayed where he was.

Then the real shaking started. It was a strong powerful side to side movement. A mug fell off the table onto me. I put my arm up to steady the other one. It lasted for some seconds. I sat up, and realised that the shaking was still going, but calmer now. All but two of my cacti had falled off my whatnot, so it was obvious straight away that the shaking we had felt was a lot stronger than that of the 4th of September quake.

It turns out it was a magnitude 6.3 quake centered 10km south-east of the city, 5 km deep. I’m in the NE of the city, so it was 12 km away from our house. It was an aftershock to the 4th of September quake, and while the chance of getting such a large aftershock was by now very slim, it wasn’t abnormal – this is not volcanic shaking, or a sign that something more is happening seismically.

The first thing I did was run after the cat. He had been asleep on the couch (no warning from the cat this time), and ran out his cat door as the shaking started. He’d got as far as the side of the house and was standing there looking confused. I tried to pick him up, but he ran under the house. He sat there for a good 3 hours before he came out.

I could feel the adrenaline kicking in. I went inside and got my jacket, cell phone and battery powered radio. We went out onto the street to see how everyone else was. The in-laws weren’t home. The woman over the road arrived in a car, in a very distressed state. Her and her daughter had been out shopping, the other daughter was still at school. The girl said, in tears “All the tvs fell over!”

At one point I thought “this earthquake isn’t as bad as the last, being during the day it’s less scary”. Then I remembered why we had been so fortunate the last was at 4am. Everyone was at home in their beds. This time they weren’t.

I tried to find information on the radio. The first station was playing music. I listened for a while, waiting for a news announcement, but the song went on and on and on. After about 10 minutes I gave up and went to the next station. It was people talking in Maori. Then I tuned into a station with speaking in English. The first thing I heard was “Do you have a crack you need repaired? We can fix it! Call so-and-so Crack Repairs now!” Eventually the ad break stopped and I found it was a talkback show where they were talking about the earthquake. I gathered that the central business district very damaged, but that’s all the information I could get. It was maybe 3 hours later that anyone actually said where the EQ was centered. Again, as with the last earthquake, they still played commercial adverts as normal. Mostly ads for local businesses. They’d tell us things like “Stay off your cell-phones. The networks are overloaded, leave them free for people requiring emergency services. And now we’re talking to Tim, who’s walking down Ferry Road in Christchurch…don’t send videos or photos via your cell phone. If you must send a message, make it a short text. And now lets listen to a video someone sent us of the earthquake.”

Everyone we spoke to was alright. Further down the road, everyone was pointing at something and I could see water coming up in the road. A few minutes later, we saw a little fountain start in the middle of the road in front of our house. “Oh hey, look at that!” Then two more started in a diagonal line across the road. The seal started to bulge upwards. Before long there was water and silt pouring out of the road in front of our house, and at several places further up the road. We started to get a lot of people trying to drive down our street, despite the damage. The main road was packed with cars, people leaving the city centre to get home. People kept asking me which way to go that wasn’t damaged. I didn’t know.

I went and got a chair, attached a piece of paper to it saying “ROAD DAMAGE AHEAD” and put it at the end of the road. I got another one and went to put it at the other end of the road. When I got there, I saw there was no point. The intersection was covered with silt and water. The next intersection was even worse, cars were going past with the water above the bottoms of the doors. I took a right turn and put my second sign at the intersection with the closest main road. I felt like an idiot, the main road at that point was flooded too, and the patch of road visible behind me looked fine, but I wanted to warn of damage further in, so I left it there anyway. A woman drove up as I was placing my sign, and said in tears “But my house is in there!” I waved her past. It wasn’t like I had any authority, and my intention was to provide information rather than restrictions.

I sent a text to my brother saying “[Husband’s name] and me are fine”. A couple of hours later I suddenly received 5 or 6 texts from friends asking if we were ok. I tried to reply to one, but wasn’t able to send it. This happened all day. Every hour or so I’d suddenly get a bunch of texts. I got a text from my brother a couple of hours later asking if we were ok. I sent a reply again saying we were. Another 2 hours after that I got another text from him again asking if we were ok. Or perhaps it was the same one again. I tried to phone him, but couldn’t. Eventually I managed it. “Thanks, I got your text”, he said. We managed to hear that close family were all ok.

We spent the rest of the day not knowing what to do. We were told to stay off the roads, stay at home, or somewhere safe. The kids over the road decided to keep themselves busy digging silt. They were very proud when they cleared a channel in the gutter. “We’ve got the water flowing again!” I’m not sure that was a good idea. They were paddling about in this mud that likely contained sewerage.

One of the kids told me excitedly “I heard there’s a dead body at The Palms, [local shopping mall] it got runned over!”
“Oh, really? That’s not good!”

Our house seems to be ok. The piles still in place. I’m very glad we didn’t have the chimney any more. There are cracks in the driveway, and there’s a door that’s not shutting, so obviously the house has moved, but it is safe and that’s the main thing. Lots of things on the floor to clean up though. A bottle of orange cordial smashed on the kitchen floor, but we can’t really clean it up with no water. Everything is sticky.

It started to rain in the evening. We put all our pots and pans out, and gathered enough to fill our kettle before it stopped

When it started to get dark, we decided to go to bed. We heard the power come back on at about 10pm, and got up again to let people know we were ok via internet. I did not sleep well, and got up as soon as the sun came up again in the morning.

We have been having aftershocks from the shake all day. Apparently aftershocks can cause their own aftershocks. These have not been as bad as the aftershocks we had in the days following the quake last September. Presumably because this quake was 6.2 as opposed to 7.1, the aftershocks are also scaled down.

We’ve been hearing a lot of helicopters and sirens.

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Read this like a book – start at the top left and go across, then on to the second line and so on. Top left is 22:00 on Monday the 21st, bottom right is 22:00 on Tuesday the 22nd. Each line represents half an hour. Red represents where clipping has occured from a large signal, to avoid obscuring too much of the rest of the image.

Image from geonet.org.nz. I acknowledge the New Zealand GeoNet project and its sponsors EQC, GNS Science and LINZ, for providing data/images used in this blog.

Next day

I haven’t dared to turn on the tv. I saw some pictures on the internet, and that was more than enough. It’s likely that you reading this will have a better idea of what’s going on in the central city than I do.

We have no water. We heard that they were trucking it in to the local school. The Mother-in-law and I walked down with some plastic bottles. There was a queue, but we were told the truck wouldn’t arrive until 11 o’clock. We came home again. Walked back at about 11:30, and the queue was massive, extending to the end of the block in both directions. The roads between here and the school are all filled with silt. Where we waited in the queue, there was so much silt that we couldn’t see where the road began and the footpath ended. The park and the school’s playing field were dotted with sand volcanos where silt and water have come pushing out of the ground due to liquefaction. The footpaths were bulging in places too. The water was there at the front of the queue, but they weren’t handing it out. They needed to wait for a hose. A policewoman wearing a stab vest came down the queue a while later telling us that they were now waiting for valves. She was also handing out forms for people to report missing persons. Eventually the line started to move. The whole time we waited cars were driving slowly past. The roads were packed, everyone was moving slowly. Sometimes cars went past with trailers piled with furniture on the back. Ambulances came past. One came and pulled up next to the line. Someone further down the line called out “She’s gone, someone else took her to the hospital. We tried to call to cancel the ambulance but couldn’t get through.” A second water tanker arrived some time later, and everyone cheered. The queue started to move slightly faster. At the front of the queue, the new tanker was dispensing water quickly with a good hose, it was being operated by a soldier. The first tanker had only a high pressure hose. There were volunteers filling buckets from the high pressure hoses, and then handing people funnels and pouring water from the buckets into people’s bottles. We got home with the water almost four hours later.

We were quite tired when we got home. A friend from a couple of suburbs away walked round to use our internet. He had been in the city the day before when the quake hit, had started driving out, abandoned his car when he saw people “pulling most of people” out of a building. He stopped to help and then walked the rest of his way home.

Our landline went down as well. We had a non-powered anolog phone that we’d dug out of a drawer after the last quake, which had been useful the day before. But this morning the phone lines just aren’t connecting. We pick it up and get nothing. Thankfully the internet is on cable, so we’re still in touch with people

That evening we heard the water had been turned back on. We can now use tap water. I’m not sure what for though, as all the pipes under the street are broken. We are carefully conserving our drinking water.

We’ve heard not to flush our toilet under any circumstances. We’d been using the corner of the garden instead. We’d been holding on as long as possible, but had to do something about “solid waste” that evening. We dug a hole in the lawn, put the turf aside and got a couple of boards to cover the hole. We’re sprinkling earth on top as we use it, and will replace the turf once it’s full. Hopefully some port-a-loos will arrive in the area at some point.

Oh yes, and it’s my birthday. The husband got me a fluffy dressing gown, and the in-laws got me a nice top to wear.

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Tuesday’s seismograph reading. Note the “scale” at the right. On the 22nd it was 70,000, here it is 30,000. The larger the number, the smaller the height of the waves is drawn (more zoomed out with larger numbers). The first four lines of this drum image overlap the last four of the previous day’s one. Before this aftershock, the scale of drum images from our local seismograph had been 200 for some time with not much activity.

Thursday

Surprisingly, I managed to sleep for a long time last night. I woke up with a huge headache though. I suspect it’s a migraine from standing in the sun for 3 hours. We have not heard much further news. We hear that the Grand Chancellor Hotel (tallest building in the city) has been slowly leaning over, and is now resting on the building next to it. Names of deceased are not yet released. We’ve heard that a lot of friends are ok. There are others we haven’t heard from, however communications are so dodgy that there could be many reasons for this. My husband is currently biking to a friend’s house to try and get some news about him.

The friend is fine. Well, not so fine emotionally. I think he’d rather not be in the city, but they don’t want to leave as the house over the road has been burgled already. Another friend, the one who abandoned his car in town the other day went and retrieved it today. It had been broken into. What goes through these people’s heads when they do things like that?

This afternoon we shovelled silt out of the back yard of the in-laws (a sand volcano from liquefaction had broken out). It was 4 inches deep in places, but it wasn’t mud anymore, so much easier to shovel.

Also, the phone rang this afternoon! Yay our landline is back! My parents phoned. They’ve been away on a trip, and it was really good to talk to them!

We’re supposed to be able to use tap water at the moment in small amounts, but I don’t know if it’s drinkable. Also, some places are saying that it’s safe to flush toilets again, but other places are saying not. Confusing. I’d been thinking the water pouring out in the street was from burst water pipes, but my neighbour thinks it was just from liquification. This makes me feel better about the water in the taps, and I suppose that there is water in the taps backs up that the pipes are still mostly intact. I think I’ll have a shower later, that’ll be good! Not going to be drinking the water though!

The body count is still rising, not surprising really. Only four names have been released so far. I’m still avoiding watching the news.

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Down to 8,000, settling down again.

Friday

I’m feeling very fortunate today. Our water is back on. The pressure is anything but stable, but it looks clean (but we’re still boiling it of course). I had a shower last night and we did dishes for the first time since Tuesday. We think we are allowed to use the loo now too, although we don’t want to be adding problems for people with sewerage leaks in their area, so we’re still using the garden. No idea whether this is necessary. The advice of the council is “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down”. So many people I hear from have had their houses trashed or still have no power, phone or water. Mostly people from the eastern side of town. I think over half of the people I know have left town, most temporarily, and more are wanting to leave.

We went for a walk to the dairy a few blocks down. The council is clearing silt from the main road near my house, they had roadworking equipment driving up and down, scooping all the muck into piles, and putting it in trucks. I wonder where they are taking it! There is dust everywhere. Bits of road surface are missing, there are places where the footpath goes up and down in waves a couple of feet high. We saw people shovelling mud out of a row of shops, it was all over their floors. And this part of town was hit nowhere near as bad as some others.

The census has been cancelled. It was supposed to be held on the 8th of March, and the headquarters of census operations were in Christchurch.

The Grand Chancellor Hotel seems to have stopped falling over! It is still leaning on the building next to it and appears to be stable for now!

We’re being told that food is not a problem. There are shops open near us now, so that’s good. I think with so many people having left the city they will be having trouble selling all their stock now.

It was in the news yesterday that some scumbags had stolen 3 power generators being used to power some of Telstraclear’s roadside cabinets – to keep phone and internet available in places where their cabinets don’t have power. Just shocking what some people will stoop to. I wasn’t surprised to see that they’ve been caught already and the generators returned. Their sentences are likely to not be lenient!

A friend told me that on the day of the quake his Dad had been fixing a car in his workshop. He was under the car, and the phone rang. He got out and answered it and then the quake hit. He wouldn’t be here if the phone hadn’t rung, the whole back wall came off his workshop!

I keep seeing more and more awful photos and realising how fortunate we are compared to so many people.

We’re going to a wedding tomorrow. Not too far away. Should be interesting.

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Here’s today’s seismograph. Unfortunately I was a bit late grabbing the image and missed 10 minutes! The two large bumps are a 4.4 and a 4.3 respectively.

Geonet say the aftershocks from this earthquake should hopefully decrease in the next few weeks.

Saturday

Slept in today. I’ve been pretty lethargic over the last few days, I guess it’s my way of dealing with stress. Better than sleep deprevation though!

Not long after I got up, a convoy of trucks and diggers came down the road from City Care (the city council’s work force). They went down to the next intersection and started to dig into the silt mounds. They looked like they’d be doing the whole street, so we decided to go and dig up the silt mound from the back yard of the people over the road and move it out onto the grass verge for the council to remove with the rest. The people who lived there had left to stay with relatives on the other side of town the day after the quake. The silt stank! I’ve got some pretty good blisters now too!

The Mother in Law came and asked my husband if he’d mind biking to North Linwood to find out if a friend of someone she knew was ok, so he went off to do that, and a 13 year old kid from a couple of doors down came out with a shovel and wheelbarrow to help me.

Stopped and had lunch, then got ready to go to a wedding in the afternoon. We were a bit worried as we pulled up to the church and it had scaffolding and bracing all around (looked like from the September earthquake), but it turned out the wedding was in a smaller hall attached as the main hall was off limits. No aftershocks during the ceremony! It was a nice wedding, and the hall was quite full, so most people made it!

Came home completely worn out. I sorted out my cacti collection today, but there’s still a lot of picking things up we need to do inside the house. We’re getting through it slowly.

We thought City Care would have de-silted the street by the time we got home, but the piles of silt we made on the roadsides were still there. Walking down the street later I discovered why. There are 4 or 5 huge piles of silt that they’ve gathered up on the road down there, presumably to take away tomorrow. I don’t think I’d be exaggerating to say that there’s enough silt there to fill up our house. This is just muck that came pouring up out of the ground from liquefaction.

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And I missed another 40 minutes today, but nothing too different happened in that time.

Monday

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Here’s a weird picture I got from this article on the Stuff website. This fellow lives in Heathcote Valley. During the big shake last Tuesday, his coffee mug was hurled at the wall where it is now embedded, unbroken! The highest Peak Ground Acceleration measured during the quake was 2.2g at the Heathcote Valley Primary School (source). I think that means that they experienced sideways forces up to 2.2 times that of gravity. (Edit: oh yes, I’ve been reminded that force = mass * acceleration, and a g is a measure of acceleration, so my terminology is kind of wrong. But still…mug in wall!)

Yesterday the Mother in Law went around the street and discovered a couple more yards with silt piles at the back, so husband and I, MIL and the lad from 2 doors down got our wheelbarrows and shovels and went and dug some more silt up and put it by the roadside. It’s quite tiring!

City Care took the day off yesterday, which they probably very much needed! Today they are back removing the mountains they made on Saturday. The kids down the road have named them things like Mt. Everest. Every time one of these trucks drives past, the house shakes, I think the road being damaged makes it worse than usual.

My parents should be arriving in the city today! I’m looking forward to seeing them again!

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Here’s yesterday’s drum image (again, I was a bit late grabbing it). The scale hadn’t decreased at all.

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This is an image giving an overview of selected seismographs around the country for the last 3 hours. The red line means the Canterbury Ring Laser is not operational (it often isn’t). The McQueen’s Valley line is closest to us.

The big vertical line bottom right was a 4.3 magnitude aftershock near us. You can see it being picked up slightly later and getting smaller by other seismographs up and down the country. The one at the top of the image was a 4.2 near White Island. This is what the overview looked like on the day of the quake

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Phew! This afternoon my cousin posted on facebook that they needed help clearing silt from their back yard. We got some shovels and went round there. They weren’t kidding! As we arrived, we looked at the pile of silt in front of their house and wondered if they’d finished already. The width of their property, the pile covers the grass verge and extends onto the road about as far again. No such luck. Their backyard is about 350 square meters. Maybe 2 square meters did not have silt on them. It was a foot deep in places. It stinks. It smells like cows. I don’t think even half of the yard had been cleared when we left.

The trip over there was very very slow. Most of the bridges over the river are closed off. There is only one bridge open for a long way on this side of the CBD. At one point it took us about half an hour to get past a set of traffic lights half a block up. The light went green about 20 times, but nobody was moving.

There is dust everywhere, from the liquefaction silt. A lot of people are wearing face masks. Some people were wearing those arab-style scarfs that have been popular with teenage boys for so long. Finally they can put them to good use!

There are a lot of signs around the place asking people to drive slowly. Potholes everywhere and some decent cracks in the roads. A lot of the damage is marked out with wheelie-bins belonging to tenants, where nobody has shown up yet to deposit road cones.

I’m very tired from digging, but it’s good to have something to do.

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This evening’s drum image

One week later

A friend’s facebook status reads:

YOU KNOW YOU ARE IN CHCH WHEN ..

  • you use the term “liquefaction” in casual conversation.
  • Digging a hole and pooping in your garden is no longer weird
  • Your mayor describes the city as munted
  • driving on wrong side of road is normal
  • You see tanks round town and curfew as a good thing
  • You are always noting what you are under
  • Due to frequent aftershocks, you sleep like a baby–wake every 10 minutes & sh*t yourself

Well, aside from the “tanks” actually being light armoured vehicles, this sounds pretty much right.

We were absolutely exhausted today, and feel like we may be coming down with colds. We took the day off. I even napped for a couple of hours this afternoon. I’d been intending to wash some clothes by hand to save water, but didn’t have the energy so put half a load in the machine. It’s good to have some clean washing!

The water is going to be chlorinated as of today. We will still need to boil it to drink or cook with (which is probably just as well because that will also get rid of some of the bad taste), but I’ll feel a lot better about washing clothes and hands and the like in tap water with it being treated. Christchurch water previously needed no treatment as it was very very clean. It’s only a temporary measure, thankfully!

We were going to go back to the Aunt and Uncle’s tomorrow to do more shovelling, but it sounds like they had quite a few volunteers today and it’s all finished! I’m rather relieved!

Apparently my Aunt was in the city centre at work on the day of the quake. I gather someone drove her about 2 blocks from her work, but had to drop her off as the road was blocked. It took her 5 hours to walk home, while my cousins had no idea if she was alright.

At 12:51pm today the country held 2 minutes silence. It was very emotional. I’ve never heard the tv be silent for so long. Afterwards the tv showed a ceremony in the city where a Maori woman was singing a lament. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything so heart-rending.

There was a story in the news this morning which cheered me up quite a lot though!
The statue in the square had tumbled down, and a crane driver found two odd items which had been buried in the plinth! It turns out there are two time capsules that nobody knew about, from either 1867 or 1933 (or possibly one from each)! They’ve been taken to the museum to be looked after for now. I found this very exciting, and can’t wait to find out what’s inside them! Full article here.
Update: The glass capsule is from 1918, the second from 1933. Canterbury Museum say “Thanks to Mayor Bob Parker involving the Museum, we are now caring for the items and undertaking immediate conservation work to stabilise and protect the vellum manuscript in the first, in a glass bottle which broke during the shake. The second, a larger sealed copper tube, is in safe storage pending re-opening of our conservation laboratory where it will be assessed by staff and opened by the Mayor – possibly in mid-April 2011.” (source)

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They may look bigger today, but that’s because the scale has dropped to 1,000! 😀 (the scale is set automatically depending on the activity). The large one at the bottom was a 4.6 at 10:42 pm. The large one higher up a 4.3 at 9:10 am. The smaller wiggle you can see in the middle bottom, just above and to the left of the number 10, that was a 4.5 in Wellington in the North Island. You can tell it was far away because it’s in a two-part shape (because earthquakes create two types of waves, one travels faster than the other, so the further away you are, the further apart the two waves arrive).

Wednesday 2nd of March

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Left is the giant mountain of silt from liquefaction that the council have been removing from the city (pic source). 135,000 tonnes have been removed so far and they estimate they will have removed 226,000 by the 7th of March. I think they are underestimating.

Today we had gusty north-west winds, very strong. Silt dust was blowing everywhere, to the point where it sometimes felt like it was affecting visibility while driving. When walking, face masks and goggles would have been ideal.

I took a different route to the supermarket today to avoid getting stuck at lights for half an hour. Turns out that intersection wasn’t jammed today, but the roads on the alternate route were an absolute mess. Bits of the seal gone in places, silt everywhere, but most noticable were the humps all over the place, like a series of waves had gone down the street and just paused. Well I suppose it’s actually from bubbles of liquefaction that have pushed the surface up but not broken it. It was a mess. I was in 2nd gear for most of the trip.

I hear that people in some areas have been decorating their port-a-loos with things like tinsel and garden gnomes! I will share pictures if I see any!

Here is an interesting item on New Zealand’s biggest auction site. Someone attempts to sell a giant boulder that fell off a hill into his house! It’s good to see people seeing a light side of things.

A couple of eastern suburbs are still without power a week later, and pockets of other areas around the city. I imagine most of those people will have evacuated for now.

I keep hearing about people who have had their houses broken into, usually the people who least need to deal with that kind of thing – those who have lost family members, those who have been out all day every day for the last week searching rubble for bodies. How can looters even be thinking about stealing electronics at times like this? The most angering I’ve heard of was 2 men who stole three generators from the CBD that were powering cabinets keeping people’s phone and internet services running. Thankfully they were caught the same day and the generators recovered. How stupid and thoughtless can you get?

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I’ve given up any attempt to capture these at the same time each evening. Woohoo, scale is below 1,000!

Thursday 3rd of March

Saw a cool video on youtube today demonstrating the strange properties of liquefaction sludge! The stuff we have been shovelling had mostly dried out, so I haven’t seen this behaviour myself, but it explains how it can come pouring up out of the ground!

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One month later

Last week the sewerage system became a problem in our street. We had been flushing the toilet sparingly, and still using the garden for a lot of it. Then last week one of the drain covers in the street began to leak foul-smelling liquid over the road. Now we have all been issued with a chemical camping toilet, and there are port-a-loos on every block. It rained yesterday, and now it’s a little bit wiffy going out on the street.

The local malls are still closed and probably will remain that way for several weeks. Amazingly there were only minor injuries in both of them, even though one has major damage to the upstairs carpark.

Our local indoor sports centre has opened back up, and we went down there yesterday to play Indoor Soccer. Another of the bridges has been opened up, so we took a more direct route there down Fitzgerald Ave. It’s a large road that had 2 lanes on each side with a barrier in the middle. There’s a section where it winds along side the river. The 2 lanes on the river side of the road have dropped about a meter. The second lane on the other side of the road was being used for traffic going the other direction. We drove past where my husband used to work. There was a large 4 story building there that was known as “the tower”. We had actually considered renting it for accomodation a while ago, but felt that it was too ricketty. Now the top 2 floors are a pile of bricks in the second story. I’m hoping the large “C” spraypainted on the side is short for “clear”.

On the way home from indoor soccer we came up to the traffic lights at the bridge just before the section of Fitzgerald Ave that has slumped. We followed a line of cars across the intersection into the second lane, where oncoming traffic has been when we drove the other direction earlier. As we drove we heard some workmen shouting and running past us to the intersection. We soon found out why. Next thing the road narrowed to one lane, and we met oncoming cars, which had all been pulled to the side of the road to let us pass. The second lane we had entered was now supposed to be for cars coming the other way, but they hadn’t marked it properly at the other end. We ended up driving on the wrong side of the road, and the wrong side of the mid-road barrier until we arrived at the next set of traffic lights. By that time there was traffic going our direction on the correct side of the road, and nobody knew quite what to do about this line of cars coming the wrong way through these traffic lights. There was a bit of horn tooting, but we managed to get across eventually. What a nightmare!

I was right about the amount of silt in the city being underestimated. Today they announced that 360,000 tonnes have now been removed (in early March they estimated there would be 226,000). I think they have removed most of it now.

Our house was right at the edge of the liquefaction damage range in our area. It’s strange. Drive northwest from our house and you’d hardly know there had been an earthquake. Drive southeast and, well in the words of the mayor, “it’s munted”.

A friend took us out to dinner a couple of weeks ago. We found a restaurant round the north of the city that we thought was likely to be undamaged and went for a drive. The sign at the door informed us that they could only do instant coffee as their coffee machine was broken. We went in, and started eating. It was a nice restaurant with wood panelling on the walls and nice paintings and we couldn’t see any visible damage. But then as the waitress brought our drinks I suddenly noticed that all the carpet in the place had been pulled up and the floors were just bare concrete! I assume the carpets were damaged by spilled drinks, broken glass or something of that nature. It felt strange that this kind of thing is the new normal.

Interesting! A truck just pulled up outside as I’m writing this. It’s about half past eight in the evening. They have a large tank on their truck, they’ve put a big hose down the draincover in the middle of the road and they’re pumping it into the truck. Very stinky! I suspect this is not the beginning of repair work, but more for control of leaked sewerage. The council estimated that only 60 percent of sewerage being flushed is making it to the treatment plant.

drum11

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