Greendale earthquake- a personal story

4:30 am on Saturday 4th Sep 2010 I was awake, listening on an earphone to BBC. The rumbling and shaking built quickly.
‘Ginny, this is the big one- we’re out of here’. I started heading out of the upstairs – but stopped, thinking- I need to make sure Ginny is safe. That was the last movement made by choice. I was thrown into the bookcase- nasty bruising and dropped to the floor. Ginny, a few metres away in the pitch dark and noise was thrown on a wall and bounced on her backside… For the next while (How long, not sure- maybe 10-20 seconds) we were bounced around in a house that had turned feral. It was like riding a bucking animal. Nothing like it ever before. No choice about movement in any direction. Forget the theories about where to go, what to do- we had no choice for those seconds. The noise and the shock was – well, indescribable. Neither of us called out- just shocked by the immense power.
Later we heard the quake was a 7.1 on the richter scale, but the real measure of power for us relates to the g forces we experienced. It seems a g force was measured about 6 km from our home- at 1.25 g. Anything above 1 g means there are times you are weightless. Tossed about. That’s what it felt like. Earthquake scientists tell us that really large earthquakes worldwide seldom deliver greater than 1.25g.
Christchurch recorded about 0.3 g worth of shaking forces. Check this out if you want more on g forces.

That was the start. Power out. Dark. Matches, where are the matches, candles, torch…? Funny how hard it was to move, with so much of everything now on the floor. Oops, Anna-Marie and two toddlers were downstairs. How were they? Surprising everyone of us was ok. The house had stood up amazingly well. No cracks in gib/ceilings/walls. The house was a shocking mess. Stuff out and down all over the place, but Ginny’s enthusiasm to have locks on doors had stopped much worse damage in pantry. No fruit jars broken. Many others were not so fortunate.
By the way, this earthquake of 7.1 on Richter scale is the only one ever to be that large with no fatalities.

Once we were seen to be ok, I drove to neighbours to check on them. Some were philosophical, others were seriously traumatised by the enormous power. Later we took another chimney down to protect them from the weight of falling concrete.

For many – Terra firma? Just terror!!

This is a work in progress. This morning I head back to a large old homestead in our area, very high, two storey- to try and get one chimney working again so that they can run their fire. In all there were 6 visits up to their home, shifting tonnes of bricks off seriously damaged, steep and broken roof. Fishing bricks out of blocked chimneys, including the cell phone I dropped out a shirt pocket! A real buzz was the day we got two chimneys cleaned out and running again, so the homestead could warm up, heat water and cook meals again. Great sense of satisfaction.

There was plenty of fun using harness and the digger to lift a tank onto a broken tank stand. What an opportunity to share God’s love in practical ways.

1 comment to Greendale earthquake- a personal story

  • David Moore

    Wow! Hi David – I was born at Darfield and lived in the old weatherboard baptist Manse at Greendale from 1952-1959. I thought Greendale as a place was heaven on earth back then. My wife and I were in Paris when we heard about the quake that day and from CNN news it seemd the whole city of Christchurch had been flattened. Since we got back on the 12th October, we’ve felt many small quakes and last night I was woken twice by them. What really is incredible is that no one died! What a contrast to other places and what a priviledge to live in a country that has a good infrastructure ie. building regulations, city councils and even government. On Nov 4th I walked through Christchurch and felt really sad at the number of old brick buildings that had been damaged. Friends in Christchurch say none of us will be the same again – we are different in some way.

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