Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Christchurch Earthquake February 22nd 2011

The First 18 Hours

12 Noon I have a few things to do in Riccarton. I pick up a cheque for Kirstin, post some Trade Me orders and draw some cash. It’s Tim’s 21st tomorrow but he wants a celebration dinner tonight. My next stop is Northlands Mall where I pull out my shopping list and head to one of the stores that sells cheap novelties.

12:51 I pick up some balloons, a party banner and a badge saying Birthday Boy. Tim will like that I think. It will appeal to his sense of humour. I’m heading to the till to pay when there’s a low rumbling sound and everything starts to shake. Aftershock! The motion increases and people start screaming. I grab onto the shelving unit next to me as the floor heaves beneath my feet. Then a lighting panel crashes from the ceiling, missing me by inches. It sways in front of me, suspended by a power cable. I look up, try and keep my footing.

12:52 The shaking subsides and people stream from the stores, crying, shaking, alarms shrieking all around. I drop my shopping on a shelf and follow, snapping a few photos as I head to open air. People are orderly as they head to their cars but a big group clusters around the entrance to the mall. A lady is helped out by work colleagues and sits on a stone under a tree. Another woman lies on the floor in a foetal position, sobbing, face covered. My arms and hands are tingling with pins and needles and feel numb and strange. It must be the shock.

13:02 I try to text the children and call Kevin but the phone lines are jammed. I walk down the ramp to the underground parking to find my car. A dozen alarms echo through the air and I can’t wait to get out. Traffic is backed up and as I wait in a queue to leave the mall area, another shock hits. I find out later that it’s a 5.7. I watch in horrified fascination as the gigantic 3 storey concrete wall to my right waves and bends like a piece of plastic. It’s a wonder of modern architecture that it doesn’t shatter.

13:30 Home after spending ages in traffic. The house appears undamaged but speakers have fallen, cupboards are open, the contents of my sewing box are strewn across the stairs, bottles and pictures have fallen. The dogs are subdued and distressed.

14:30 The children are all accounted for and Kevin is safe. I get a text from Chantelle saying the school won’t let them out unless they are collected. Jason comes and we drive down to Burnside High. As we walk across the field, a 5.5 aftershock hits and the trees, cars and grass undulate. Pupils mill around. Girls are red-eyed and clinging to each other and staff are trying to organise them into divisions. 3000 pupils to account for is no laughing matter. I finally get a text to say Chantelle is at a friend’s house opposite the school.

15:30 Watch the non-stop footage on TV and mourn for those who’ve died today. The city centre is shattered.

18:00 With my afternoon shopping trip sidelined, I have to use what’s in the house for Tim’s dinner. Two chickens, rice, potatoes and a few frozen vegetables. Cans of peaches and pears are our dessert. We have no bread and two boxes of milk. The stores are closed and our local supermarket is in a devastating mess. I worry about food for a while then place it in God’s hands.

23:30 I know I need to sleep so go to bed. I doze on and off but aftershocks rattle the house every 15 minutes or so.

04:30 I give up the battle and go downstairs to make tea for Kevin and coffee for myself. At the same time I dig the bread-maker out and dump ingredients into it.

06:00 Inspect the bread and see I forgot the yeast. I was the same after the September earthquake. My mind turned to mush and I struggled to remember simple things. Toss the bread away and head out with Kevin. We drive through the suburbs and along the edge of town. The damage is overwhelming. Roads are cracked and sunk, homes destroyed, buildings shattered, cars crushed.

Please pray for Christchurch.


  1. Heartbreaking, and I'm so glad to know you're fine. Prayers and blessings. Barb

  2. Such an awful tragedy. I'm heartbroken for the people of Christchurch. Thanks for giving us a glimpse into your day yesterday. Prayers for you all for this new day and the many difficult ones ahead.
    Dorothy xx

  3. Still continuing to pray, pray, pray. Such a gripping story. I grew up in San Diego, California and we had our share of earthquakes but nothing quite like this.

  4. Praying for the situation and watching the updates for more survivors.

    Love, Chrissy

  5. Hi Debbie, I tried to comment last night but couldn't. I'm so glad to see that you're okay. What a terrifying experience. We receive our share of earthquakes where I live but none like what you experienced on Tuesday. I have been in an earthquake that claimed lives but again, nothing like what has happened to Christchurch. Know that the whole nation hopes and mourns with you.

    BTW, I have a feeling that your son will never forget his 21st birthday celebration.

  6. Hi Debbie, I am praying, too. Like the others, I've had my share of California earthquakes, but not to the magnitude of what you are experiencing. So awful.