A week of earthquakes, floods and wind


What a wild week we had in the shaky isles last week! Thankfully we’ve been okay in our home in the hills of Wellington, New Zealand, clear of any tsunami risk. However, so many people around the country, particularly in the north east of the South Island, have suffered with earthquake damage, homes destroyed, and lives disrupted with massive landslides and transport links wiped out overnight. Kaikoura has been left completely land-locked with widespread damage (photos here). The tiny community of Mt Lyford has been absolutely gutted. Natural environments, home to fragile ecosystems and threatened species, have been forever changed.

‘Thousands of paua – along with crayfish, butterfish and other sea-life – have been left exposed and to die, after the seabed was lifted metres out of the water.’ [Kaikoura seabed destroyed by quake: Radio NZ]

For live updates visit RNZ – The aftermath of the 7.8 magnitude quake

Nature is an incredible, powerful force, and one we do best to respect. It was an unfortunate coincidence that the world’s largest seismic testing vessel, The Amazon Warrior arrived a few days prior to the big quakes. It’s appearance is not a welcome one.  The vessel is here to commence seismic testing for oil along the eastern seabed of New Zealand.  It was photographed off Rarangi Beach in Cloudy Bay the night before the quake, right on top of a major fault line. The ship was met with protests when it arrived on the 13th November. There are trillions of dollars worth of oil and gas around NZ’s shores. We can take action by supporting organisations like Greenpeace. It’s presence is no friend to nature and the delicate ecosystems along New Zealand’s east coast.

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For our little family life has continued much the same after the earthquakes, with nerves a little frayed, but otherwise no damage.

My husband and I awoke just after midnight to the intense shaking. It was larger than anything we’ve felt in the years we’ve lived here. We held each other tight, hearts beating, whispering words of reassurance (as much to ourselves as each other), as the bed shook, the dog barked and the wind-chimes in the garden joined in with the cacophony of sound. Two of our three children sleep on futons in our bedroom and they didn’t even stir, even with the dog barking! As the shaking continued past a minute (it’s hard to estimate time in a situation like this, but it felt long and drawn out and got to the stage where we were wondering when it would stop… plus it intensified after the first minute), I wanted to be downstairs, checking on our oldest daughter, but the shaking was too intense and scary for either of us to move.

Eventually, after over two minutes the shaking stopped. My husband went down to check on our oldest daughter, who was awake – but amazingly calm and matter of fact. There was water from one of the fish tanks all over the floor (whereas the other tank hadn’t spilt a drop!), a couple of ornaments had fallen – but not broken – and pictures askew on walls, but otherwise all was fine.

My first thought was to find out where the epicentre of the quake had occurred. There was no doubt that the magnitude of the quake was severe. Wherever the epicentre was the damage was going to be catastrophic. Facebook and Twitter were live with updates from all around the country. Friends on the flat, in Lyall Bay and Petone, were evacuating to high ground, in case of a tsunami.

The morning after the quake we had some friends come to spend the day with us, after having spent half the night outdoors. They rested as best they could, with the continued aftershocks, and we invited them to stay the night – so that they could at least rest without the thought of having to evacuate when the earth moved.

Our oldest daughter had school cancelled, and all the children played together, making the most of the impromptu day of play! It reminded me of my childhood, growing up in the UK, when school would be shut in storms or snow.

I took the dog out for a quick walk, collected some sweet pea flowers growing wild, and came back feeling revived.

The next day we woke feeling better rested, just a few after-shocks and wind to stir us from our sleep. Then the rain started. We have already had an incredibly wet November, with more than the average monthly rainfall already fallen. Well, this rain just wouldn’t let up. By the afternoon the Hutt river had burst its banks and the highways in and out of Wellington came to a standstill. Our recently fitted skylight window sprang a leak in the flashing, so we spent the day simultaneously listening to the rain hammering down outdoors and through a hole in the roof into a bucket.

The rest of the week continued with wild weather, strong wind and rain, letting up with the occasional respite for us to catch our breath. The aftershocks have subsided greatly, though many of us are feeling ‘phantom earthquakes’ and jumping at the sound of a door shutting, a gust of wind or anything unexpected, whilst checking Geonet for updates a little too frequently (read here for ‘Future Scenarios and Aftershock Forecasts, following the M7.8 Kaikoura Quake‘).

Wellington has suffered damage to some buildings – with expected closures to continue, the loss of some 3,000 parking spaces, and demolition of some buildings likely. People are stocking up and reviewing their provisions. Being prepared is the best thing we can do, meanwhile, we shall make the most of the sunshine days.

And, by the weekend the sunshine was definitely back in force! Wellington was visited by an international flotilla of naval vessels – that had been in New Zealand waters prior to the quake for the NZ Royal Navy 75th Anniversary celebrations. The naval vessels all headed to Kaikoura after the quake to aid with evacuations and distributing water and supplies.

As a family we are now starting to countdown to Christmas and keeping busy in the garden with lots of spring planting. Our oldest daughter finishes school for the year in a fortnight and the long summer holiday will be here. We have no plans to travel far, as there’s always plenty to do on our doorstep in the summer months. It will be great just to be together.