Friday, 25 February 2011

The Ronald Report

River Road, between Medway St and Banks Avenue

I sent this email to a big list of friends and family, but inevitably I'll have missed some, so here it is again.

Hi to all,

First the quake itself; Heather was in The Palms mall buying some groceries, and had just left the supermarket - she clung to a major structural pillar and watched skylights and ceilings crashing down. She was covered in fragments of glass and masonry, and then nearly got caught in the rising floods and silt as the liquefaction rose while she and a friend walked the block back to school. They had to wade through knee deep water to get belongings out of offices and get to cars. I was in our office on the 7th floor of the UC Library with my colleague Jess Hollis, finishing lunch - we dived under desks as the building whipped from side to side, avoiding high speed office chairs and drawer units slamming open and shut, computers falling over, etc. As soon as it stopped, we grabbed coats, laptops, etc and left via the stair wells with many others. We had just got to an open lawn between buildings when the second shock hit, 15 mins after the first; the fright of that had a bad effect on many people who'd been OK till then, and we had a lot of upset weepy people around us. We walked the long way around to get to our cars, avoiding large buildings, then I joined a 45-60 minute bumper to bumper queue to get to the QE2 motorway and home to find Heather had just arrived, about 3pm. Attempts at texting each other had failed in the huge volume of cell network traffic; the texts arrived about dinner time!

We've been very lucky; we had a landline phone on Wed morning, then water came back on at 9am Thursday, and we returned home from an "empty the freezer" barbecue about 10pm last night to find that we had power and internet as well. So domestic life for us is back to normal, in terms of infrastructure services. We're being pretty canny with toilets and showers, because inevitably there will be damaged sewers downstream from us, but basically we're fine, and a lot more comfortable than most. We are keeping water supplies and gas stoves near by for a few more days, though, just in case. We'll probably go back to Alice's flat and retrieve our freezer contents that she's been storing.

Other services such as supermarkets and petrol stations are working on the western side of Hagley Park, but the eastern side of town is mostly shut down. We went to the big Countdown at Northlands yesterday; it was crowded and busy, but coping OK. If we need to refuel cars, I think I'll plan to go at around 7am to avoid the worst of the crowds. Obviously the university is shut while buildings are assessed for safety, and schools are all shut as well. Shirley Boys High, where Heather works, has been badly flooded and filled with liquefaction silt, and we hear that Avonside Girls High has major cracking and lateral spreading. That means this part of town needs enough temporary places to teach 3000 teenage kids.
Silt in Hendon St, St Albans, where our friends Frances and Chris live.

I won't try to summarise the mess in town; you'll have seen it all on TV. We visited our old house in River Rd on Wednesday morning, and that afternoon I biked around Mairehau & St Albans visiting friends and taking photos. The pics of our house, the collapsed road, and the neighbourhood cleanup are at my Flickr site,

Our house was already a wreck, but Tuesday finished it right off. There's an artesian bore under the house, with a tap beside our bedroom, but the pipe had sheared and we can hear water flowing somewhere under the front porch. I'm not concerned about getting inside to rip up the porch floor and plug the leak - the house is a wreck anyway, and now it's getting wet that just confirms the matter. The whole house has jolted 15-20cm sideways, opening gaps between the walls and foundations, the single brick garage is flattened, and the back lawn is full of silt and water. Don't ask about time frames for rebuilding - this has thrown all the cards up in the air, and the whole recovery process will start again. We'll be a couple of years at least, before we get back into a solid new house.

In the meantime, we're OK, healthy and more or less happy, in a totally undamaged house which we're renting until Leanne the owner returns in December. We need to have another rental organised later in the year, but we'll get through this phase first. The government $275/week rent subsidy will be helpful when our insurance payout ends.

I'll probably do messages through Facebook & Twitter, rather than email or blog, to keep updates coming, as they are quick and easy - I'm just plain Gregor Ronald on FB, @GregorRonald on Twitter.

Oh, by the way - we've had two small-to-medium aftershocks while I've been typing this. Rock and roll!

Best wishes to all,

Gregor Ronald, Christchurch, New Zealand 027-733-7427 @GregorRonald

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