from the August 2013 earthquakes

Here’s my August earthquake email… 

Hello all

While the overseas news services reported yeserday’s earthquake in Christchurch the “capital of the South Island”, there’s usually only one capital per country (even here) – and Wellington ‘s ours.  I expect the government is thinking about shifting the capital elsewhere at the moment – because then they wouldn’t have to work here.  There was a great news item about the Minister of Civil Defense jogging back to Parliament from the airport this afternoon after the earthquake struck.  She’s a young and fit (and politically very conservative) woman – though it would have been at least a 45 minute run over hills and through constituencies that voted for the opposition as she probably wouldn’t have gone the short route – around the bays (tsunami risk)

It was a “shallow 6.5 quake” shallow being the key word here – in the Seddon area again!! – possibly felt in Christchurch – but definitely rocked Wellington .  Seddon’s a dot of a town at the top of the SI – significantly (in so many seismic ways) closer to Wellington than Christchurch .

So Christchurch was spared this time.  The earthquake that broke our still un-repaired Chch in 2011 (not that they haven’t had others since)  was only 6.3 but very shallow and almost directly underneath Chch. 185 people died – many in one collapsed (and since shown to be very poorly built) concrete office building.  They had an even bigger – though less damaging-  shake (7.1) a couple of months before (we felt that one in Wellington ).   The 6.3 was an aftershock of that December quake ..  They then had aftershocks (some severe) for more than a year afterwards – I expect there are a lot of serious personality disorders in the making there.

So little ones all day yesterday – well we think of them as little now 3.5, 3.8, 2.3 then around 2:38 pm  whopping (and very shallow  and again in Seddon) – 5.7 iinstantly upgraded to 6.6 then down to 6.5 – who cares I say – it was bloody awful!!!

We were on the 13th floor – continuous movement for about 40 seconds followed by big aftershocks – I was facilitating a meeting – it was strange – all 10 of us bonding under a hardboard table as the whiteboards moved around the room – and the portraits of previous union presidents tilted forwards and banged back –  very Dr Who-ish.

Ended up taking 3 people to the airport – when we were finally let go.  When we got down the sometimes swaying staircase from the 13th floor to my car (in the underground carpark) – Here’s my asides – I quickly changed out of heels (I am never wearing heels again EVER!!- the walk down the staircase was terrible – though I probably looked great doing it)  into my tramping boots.  It’s also the last time I will park my car in the basement – the hell with the free park!! –

Normally the airport run is a 15 minute ride from work – yesterday it took over 90 minutes – fortunately we were one traffic light in front of the gridlock and 3 cars behind a firetruck.  One of my passengers lives in Christchurch – she was totally freaked out (I know that’s a dated statement – but there is no other way to describe her) – the other two were from Auckland and not much better – with no such excuse.  I admit  I’m most calm and in control when others are panicking – on my own I’m a complete Nelly!!)

One of the strangest things about yesterday’s was I was that I was about to write an email to my friend Isabel (who has just resurfaced after what I hope was an idyllic holiday) from my phone just as the quake hit this afternoon.   The intensity level flashed up on my phone and so I have joined the ranks of those who text under the table.  Fortunately my children have also started sending me – “we’re okay” texts – though it took a while for Sarah to get to school to pick the kids up.  The teachers stay behind until the parents come (even at high schools)

We’re all tuned in to Geonet now here – like a pack of mongooses (mongeese ?) caught in a headlight -all of us obsessively wanting to know the make of the car that’s about to run us over.   We even have our own earthquake scale – I find a it a little terrifying (just reading it is bad enough – let alone experiencing it).  It’s called the Modified Mercalli (sounds like a surgical procedure or a wrestling hold). You too can get instant updates though I’d set it to over 5 unless you want to be inundated with updates http://www.geonet.org.nz/quakes/region/wellington/felt –

This ‘period of seismic activity’ is very unusual – a quaint way to describe it perhaps- makes it sound like Ma Nature is premenstrual (which I suppose is better than menopausal!).  We’ve had big bumps in the past of course – but not this big.  In betweej the July shakes and today’s there have been quite a few aftershocks – but most of them weak or slight.

The July ‘episodes’ (and today’s) were severe and YES my friend – of course I knew there were earthquakes – though naively thought they were just like the ones in SF – and not like the ones in Japan or Chile – that was until Chch.  It’s a bit like asking a tourist if they knew about the tsunamis in Bali or the rapes in Chicago or the avalanches on Mt Cook (a climber died there on Sunday).

The aftershocks have settled down for the moment- like being in a boat (guess that’s why they call it liquifaction maybe) – still unsettling – we had a 5.4 aftershock.  Last night was punctuated by a shitty bunch of 4s – we just had a 3.5 as I write this.

My sister keeps texting me to come back – though I expect with the hurricane season due to start she has worries of her own.

Oops there’s another little but long-ish sway – at the moment life is reduced to wondering about whether or not to take the earthquake kit into the bathroom while I take a shower.

Strangely we’re in the middle of a food festival – wittily entitled – Wellington on a Plate!!

Techtonically yours

S