It was 7.00am on Saturday morning and we were still in bed, luxuriating in the fact that it wasn’t a workday so we didn’t have to get up with the sparrows. Then the phone rang. Who is ringing at this time, we wondered. It was son Michael, now living in Christchurch, ringing from his cell phone. There had been a big earthquake in Christchurch, he told us, in the early morning. His home had no power and no water. Thankfully there was no damage to his property. We quickly turned on the TV news, and saw the devastation in the central city.
The 7.1 magnitude earthquake caused widespread damage, including the collapse of some buildings and power outages. The Civil Defence ministry says the national crisis management centre has been activated. Scientists have described this morning's earthquake as the most significant since the 1931 magnitude 7.8 Hawke's Bay earthquake. Luckily no loss of life has been reported.
Officials survey a severely damaged building at the corner of Manchester and Worcester Street, central Christchurch. EPA/DAVID ALEXANDER
The Mayor of Christchurch reported that electricity was being slowly restored to the city but there were still concerns about the situation with water and waste water. Several large aftershocks have already struck the region, and wardens dressed in high-visibility gear are asking people to stay well clear of buildings because of the high risk of further collapses. The city centre is now officially closed. Christchurch Hospital is being inundated by residents arriving with broken limbs, bruises and cuts. Christchurch Airport is closed and all flights have been cancelled while the safety of the runways are checked. Panicked residents have been queuing to buy water as uncertainty surrounds the stricken city's water supply, but many businesses are unable to open their doors as the massive cleanup gets underway.
A car which sits under fallen debris following the early morning New Zealand earthquake.
Here in Wellington we live with the knowledge that our city is overdue for the “Big One”, the earthquake that is sure to hit sometime in the near future. Let us hope that when it does strike it will be in the early hours of the morning when there are less people about, like this one in Christchurch. They don’t call New Zealand the Shaky Isles for nothing.