It’s been a very odd week this week. Poor New Zealand has suffered one of it’s worst disasters ever – a large earthquake struck Christchurch in the middle of the day on Tuesday 22 February at 12.50pm. It was a strong, shallow quake, and has caused a huge amount of damage to the city, the earth, and the people. At this point in time, there are 145 confirmed dead, over 200 missing, several buildings have completely collapsed and trapped everyone inside, they estimate one in every three buildings in the central city will need to be demolished, and the overall cost is currently estimated at $10 billion. People are without water, sewage, power, and in many cases, without homes to go to. Aftershocks have been hitting continuously since the earthquake, and there is fear that another large earthquake will hit in the next few months. This wasn’t the first quake for Christchurch either – in September last year, a large earthquake (7.3 on the Richtar scale, if I remember the number correctly) struck and caused a huge amount of damage. But the quake this week was even worse.
I think it’s fairly safe to say that the whole country is reeling at this. People everywhere are desperate to help, but at a loss as to what to do. And those of us without any directly transferable skills are feeling rather helpless and useless. Myself included. Sure, I’ve donated money to help Christchurch but, like many others, I want to do more. Our friends, relatives and neighbours are suffering in this disaster, so naturally we all want to reach out and lend a hand.
A few days after the earthquake, it’s all feeling quite surreal. Every so often, while I’m going about my day, the realisation hits that down South, people are suffering, people are missing, recovery teams from all around the world are working hard, areas are continuing to be evacuated. And yet up here, it’s a nice sunny day in Wellington and people are out shopping. It makes for a very odd disconnect.
My sadness at what’s happened has been having an interesting impact on my day-to-day life as well. It seems at times impossible to carry on and do anything productive – it almost feels like it would be insensitive or insulting of me to do things like sew or garden when there are still people trapped in buildings, people waiting to find out what’s happened to their loved ones. Some of them may even be people I know – New Zealand is a small place, and I have a lot of former colleagues and classmates down in Christchurch that I’ve lost touch with over the years.
I’ve been feeling a very strong need to do something, anything, to help. Thankfully, yesterday I was able to spend a full day helping with the eq.org.nz website, using the skills and knowledge I have from my day job to work to make it easier for people down in Christchurch to find what they need to find, such as safe drinking water, places to buy food, and closed roads. It felt good to be able to do something, however small. It made me breathe a sigh of relief that there was something I could do other than just watch and hope.
It’s going to take New Zealand quite a while to recover from this. The practical side alone will take a while – our economy is taking a direct blow, unemployment will rise due to all the businesses that will close down, tourism will likely slow down, the housing market will be even more subdued. To say nothing of the city that needs to be rebuilt. But what’s really going to take a long time to recover from is what else we’ve lost – people all over New Zealand have lost friends, lovers, colleagues. Homes people have made, businesses they’ve built with love and pride, have all been destroyed in a matter of seconds. And of course, we’re all thinking about the future – what if it happened to us? New Zealand is on a massive fault line – we all know this, we’ve grown up with this knowledge, been trained at primary school to dive under our desks in an earthquake, to always know where the closest safe zone is to where we are. But knowing it can happen, and seeing it happen, are two very different things.
So yes, it’s been a strange week.
We all love you, Christchurch. Kia kaha.