I came to in my bed moments after midnight when the house started groaning, rattling, and shaking. Something was banging against a wall. A couple of small items nearby and in the other rooms fell from shelves. It was an earthquake. And not one of our usual quakes which shake a bit for a moment, and you think:
Well, that was a bit of a shake. No, this one was going on and even seemed to be winding up a bit.
For the first time ever, I believe, I thought that maybe I should get up and out.
Oops, the official advice is:
If you’re in bed during a quake, stay there, hold on and protect your head with a pillow. #eqnz
I sat up, grabbed my slippers and iPad (I should have got the phone), reached for my dressing gown and went the few steps to the front door, with my partner right beside me.
As we sat on the front steps the house was still shaking and I couldn’t get on the Internet because the power had gone off, taking down the router.
It turned out that we, like most of New Zealand, had felt a massive 7.5M earthquake 15 Km deep and some 200 Km away near Kaikoura in the South Island, though initially it was reported as a 6.6M, as in my screenshot.
As the screenshot also shows, with its list of quakes filtered to show only those categorised as
severe, the major quake was immediately followed by numerous aftershocks.
In some ways the word
aftershocks is misleading. I’m sure there’s a good technical reason for the name, but it seems to diminish these subsequent earthquakes, as though they’re in some way ‘less’. They’re not though — just look at those M6.2s.
We went back inside the house after a few minutes, but spent the next few hours awake, watching news on the Internet (on our phones), sharing tweets, listening to RNZ’s excellent coverage, and being on full alert as the house was shaking almost continuously with aftershocks. My little solar powered flashlights came in handy whenever the power went off.
Will this shake be big enough to cause damage? Should we leave the house for this one? Was that first one a prelude to a bigger one?
The power came on again after a while and I made us a cup of tea. Just in time, as then the power went off again, though it came back on later.
By about 4.30 I managed to go back to sleep for a couple of hours, but as the day dawned reports were coming in of damage caused by the quake, especially at the epicentre near Kaikoura which had been cut off by slips. Wellington too suffered somewhat, with various buildings losing windows or having parts fall off. Some hotels and apartment blocks were evacuated.
The aftershocks continue. Even as I wrote the last few words I felt one. Or maybe it was two. They happen so often it’s not always possible to know which one I felt. I’ve felt several others too before finishing this post. Each makes me just that bit more alert.
Yesterday morning I went around our various buildings checking for damage. I’m glad to say there was none. I also checked the two houses nearby whose owners aren’t currently around and reported back to them that they had nothing obvious to worry about.
The next issue was the tsunami potential. For a while the whole coastline was an area to stay away from, though before long the danger area was reduced to just the East coast. Apparently the fault the quake was on extends out well into the sea. Friends on the coast in South Wellington had to evacuate their houses for several hours.
Since we live by the beach I was a bit concerned, but we’re behind several rows of sand dunes, on a 3 or 4 metre hill ourselves and we’re about 800 metres inland. We stayed put, and over here on the West Coast it was more of a warning to stay off the beach itself.
Today we’ve heard the earthquake scientists speculate that the big quake was actually more than one quake. Coincidentally Wellington had gale force winds and a huge dump of rain that caused flooding and slips, disrupting land travel and ferries. For a while Wellington was effectively cut off by land.
Where I live we’ve had a fair bit of rain today and over the last few weeks, so local surface flooding is happening. The unnamed road in this photo always floods after a prolonged period of rain.
Down south the air force and navy have been evacuating stranded tourists from Kaikoura. All over the country folks have been checking on their neighbours and strangers, offering help and support and accommodation where it was needed. All the services have taken action — they all have contingency plans for this kind of thing.
So here we are nearly 48 hours after that big quake struck and things feel calmer and more settled. I’m finding the aftershocks I actually feel make the hair on the back of my neck stand up as I prepare myself mentally for a quick dash outside with the dogs. Since we’re in a rural area there are no buildings to fall on us, except the house we’re in.
Our house was built less than two years ago though, and New Zealand has strict earthquake building codes. We’re lucky that there’s no corruption in New Zealand, so we know that if a building has a Code of Compliance certificate then it meets all the various strict standards required by law.
We’re also quite well set up here. We have our own 40,000 litre rainwater tank, a woodburner and firewood on which we could cook if we needed to. We have our own septic tank. If there was a major disaster we’d do pretty well for a while.
Update, 16 November 2016: Radio New Zealand News says:
Monday’s earthquake magnitude has been upgraded from a 7.5 to a 7.8 — which means a higher probability of powerful aftershocks, for longer period of time.