Let them be scared

I’ve been completely absorbed by the earthquake news coming out of New Zealand, like news of the three cows marooned on a tiny island of pasture:


I am amazed by how much damage there is in Wellington given how far away it is from the quake’s epicentre – some 400km. I’m equally amazed by how well Christchurch did given it is <100km from the epicentre. Wellington has fault lines running right beneath the city that can produce earthquakes of similar size. If an earthquake 400km away can do this much damage, what will happen when the fault beneath the city ruptures. Is it better to be ignorant and pretend to yourself it will never happen? After all, what can you do? It’s not possible to move an entire city … or is it? At the very least, parliament should not be in Wellington. During times of national disaster a quick, calm, and responsive government can make a huge difference but if our leaders are trapped or dead then that card cannot be played.

Wellington should not have any buildings higher than two storeys. The city should also have a tsunami wall (maybe it already does? I have no idea). Everyone who lives there should be forced to secure their furniture. If they haven’t then insurance companies should refuse to insure them until they do. It seems drastic to have to do it but people will not bother until after the event by which time it is too late.

By contrast I’m amazed by how well Christchurch performed. This was a huge, shallow earthquake less than 100km away. As far as I’m aware there’s very little damage there, if any. Hanmer Springs also seemed to do very well and it is practically on top of the fault. Hanmer Springs is a lovely little town in Canterbury with hot springs. We went there several times, including a couple of times for some respite from aftershocks in Christchurch. All the buildings there are either single- or double storey only and made from timber.

Today I read a great article from a New Zealand-based psychotherapist about being scared and it rings so true for me. It’s ok to be scared. In fact, I would say it’s normal. We’ve evolved this way to keep ourselves safe. If you know someone who is affected by earthquakes and struggling to cope then the best thing you can do is let them talk and listen. Here’s a quote from the article:

The first thing we can do is let them be scared, let them express themselves, and not talk about the need for “resilience.”

No one wants to feel afraid, but it is also an incredibly useful emotion. It makes us listen to Tsunami warnings, make choices to move to safety and protect our loved ones. It also brings us together.

It also motivates us to secure our furniture and mitigate risks which could, one day, save our lives.