Three years ago on 4th September at 4:35am the locals of Christchurch were given a rude awakening from mother nature. A 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck and then another huge quake in February 2011 where just under 200 people lost their lives.There have been many aftershocks since. Wellington have had a few recently too.
It is no secret that NZ is a shaky place to be at the moment. A lot of people back in the UK ask us what experiencing an earthquake feels like. Is it scary? Does it not scare you that you could have another big quake? Does it make you want to go back?
In answer to the questions – yes a little. No not so much and no it doesn’t. The aftershocks at the moment are more like jolts that last a few seconds, if that. The thought of being caught in a massive quake, much like the ones that happened before, doesn’t cross my mind that much. It would be crazy to think “what if”. You would drive yourself nuts and constantly be on edge. It is just a case of getting on with life and rolling with the aftershocks.
When we were in NZ the first time round we experienced a couple of decent sized quakes. We were sat in the garden drinking beer with Mr M’s aunt and uncle and funnily enough talking about earthquakes. Then about 10 minutes later the ground shook us up a treat! To be honest yes it was scary, the adrenaline kicked in and all I could think was “WTF is going on!” Mr M, Aunty A and I were stood up in the garden when the ground literally started shaking quite violently, to the point where you couldn’t stand up without falling over. Aunty A held on to the table, Mr M held on to Aunty A and I was holding on to Mr M. It felt like it lasted for minutes, but I think it must have been about 5-10 seconds. A while afterwards we played “guess the magnitude”. A game that Mr M seems to be pretty good at! And then… another one hit! This time we were all sat down at the table and I instinctively grabbed my beer, an action later commended by Aunty A. I think her exact words were “Miss L has got it sussed, she went straight for the beer!”
In all seriousness though it was a bit scary. As soon as the first quake had stopped all I could hear was dogs barking, car alarms going off and helicopters overhead. After these two quakes we felt quite a few minor aftershocks, but nothing huge. I cannot imagine what the huge earthquakes much have been like and after experiencing two minor quakes I genuinely feel for all of those involved.
Since being back in Christchurch there have been quite a few aftershocks. I personally haven’t felt any of them, but Mr M has. They have been quite small and only for a few seconds. There have been a few nasty quakes towards the north of the south island in Seddon and Marlborough that have destroyed houses and buildings. Some of these were felt in Chch, but thankfully no damage to this part of the country.
The general attitude of the locals is that, although earthquakes and aftershocks are scary, people try and get on with life as best they can because what more can you do? I don’t mean for that to sound flippant as I know many people have been badly affected, have lost family and homes and have suffered psychologically. A lot of people have moved out of Chch and even out of NZ altogether. I sincerely hope there will be no more serious quakes in any part of NZ. For the time-being it doesn’t bare thinking about and it’s business as usual. There are many people in Chch who have lived here their whole lives and don’t plan on moving away.They absolutely love the place… quakes and all! I have read on some forum posts about how the city is a total mess, how awful it looks and everyone is miserable. Utter crap if you ask me. Yes there are road works in a lot of places, lots of cones and diversions. But, walking down the street on a sunny day with the Port Hills and Southern Alps as a backdrop is far from awful.
To potential expats coming to Christchurch (or NZ in general, no where is exempt from earthquakes) I would say don’t let it put you off. It could happen, but it may not, like many things in life. Large parts of Christchurch are being re-built, some parts are a building site and “danger, unstable property” signs are still stuck to buildings. But does it stop us from enjoying this beautiful place? No. We still go to work, go to the pub, get errands done and generally get out and about. There is no city center or CBD as such, but there are still plenty of places to enjoy in and around Christchurch. I still think it’s a lovely place, crumbling buildings and all.