It is now one year since the September 4th Canterbury earthquake. Here’s my account of that event.
Ben and I were fast asleep in bed at 4.35am that Saturday morning. In an instant we were awake and leaping out of bed. My thoughts were with our chimney which was in a crumbling state of disrepair directly above the roof over our bed. We had plans to remove it because we felt it was an earthquake hazard. The earthquake beat us to it.
Elizabeth was 8 months at the time and asleep next to us. I grabbed her and made my way to Daniel’s bedroom. I ran into something. Looking back I think it must have been our bedroom door which was no doubt swinging on its hinge. It was pitch black so I couldn’t see. I can remember thinking, oh my god, I can’t walk so I got down to the ground and crawled along the floor. As well as the thundering grinding of rocks beneath us I could hear things smashing in our house.
The official recommendation for what to do during an earthquake according to the Earthquake Commission is to Move no more than a few steps to a safe place, drop, cover, and hold on. Having experienced quite a few earthquakes now I can say that this is sound advice. But in reality it’s very hard to obey. If you have a child asleep in the next room, you instinctively want to get to them no matter how hard or dangerous it might be. I imagine that if you’re inside a building, you would instinctively try to run outside even though they say this is the most dangerous thing you can do.
I didn’t know the official advice back then anyway so I tried to get to Daniel’s bedroom and eventually made it. Daniel was still asleep. By now the earthquake was starting to subside. They don’t stop quite as suddenly as they start. There tends to be a tapering off of the waves kind of like ripples in a pond. I pulled him out of bed and the four of us sat in the doorway to his bedroom until it was completely over. By this stage Elizabeth and Daniel were both crying.
This was my first earthquake ever. I always new living in New Zealand I would eventually experience an earthquake. I asked Ben whether it was a big one and he said he thought it was pretty big. We had assembled our emergency supply kit earlier that year – torch, radio, food and water. Finding the torch and radio in the dark proved quite a challenge though. Ben went off in search of the torch while I tried to comfort the kids. It was at this stage I felt something warm and sticky trickling down my face. Blood. It turned out to be a minor wound which healed quickly.
No-one ever told me about the aftershocks and they came big and frequently in that first 24 hours. The first five hours went like this:
5.6M, depth: 10km 4/9/2010 04:56
4.7M, depth: 10km 4/9/2010 05:06
4.7M, depth: 7km 4/9/2010 05:26
4.4M, depth: 11km 4/9/2010 05:38
4.3M, depth: 15km 4/9/2010 05:46
4.6M, depth: 3km 4/9/2010 05:55
4.5M, depth: 3km 4/9/2010 06:01
4.1M, depth: 24km 4/9/2010 06:04
4M, depth: 9km 4/9/2010 06:07
4.1M, depth: 5km 4/9/2010 06:15
4.3M, depth: 16km 4/9/2010 06:17
4.5M, depth: 5km 4/9/2010 06:18
4M, depth: 6km 4/9/2010 06:24
4.2M, depth: 7km 4/9/2010 06:33
3.9M, depth: 5km 4/9/2010 06:54
3.9M, depth: 5km 4/9/2010 06:54
4.3M, depth: 5km 4/9/2010 07:04
4.8M, depth: 11km 4/9/2010 07:07
4.6M, depth: 5km 4/9/2010 07:13
3.6M, depth: 19km 4/9/2010 07:21
4M, depth: 9km 4/9/2010 07:52
5.1M, depth: 5km 4/9/2010 07:56
5M, depth: 5km 4/9/2010 08:15
3.3M, depth: 7km 4/9/2010 08:51
3.3M, depth: 5km 4/9/2010 09:11
3.9M, depth: 5km 4/9/2010 09:21
3.1M, depth: 5km 4/9/2010 09:31
4.8M, depth: 5km 6/9/2010 23:24
4.5M, depth: 6km 6/9/2010 23:25
5.4M, depth: 6km 6/9/2010 23:40
4.2M, depth: 7km 6/9/2010 23:54
4.6M, depth: 10km 7/9/2010 00:21