Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Impact of the Christchurch Earthquake in Wellington

The first we heard of this big earthquake was when we woke up and looked at the flood of enquiries awaiting us on facebook. "Are you alright?", "Can you let us know if you're alive?", "Can you take some pictures", "Is your house still standing?". These were just some of the messages we received. It was a bit embarrassing when I had to inform all these kind people that yes we were all fine, in fact we had actually slept through the whole thing.

It has been quite a wake up call for us here in Wellington. Watching the news footage has been quite unsettling. I have found myself glued to the multitude of real life lucky escapes and heart rending stories of homes and livelihoods that will be lost forever. The boy that had he not jumped out of bed would have been trapped under the falling wall and the woman dragged from her bed just in time as her floor collapsed beneath her. It is miraculous that there was no loss of life and had it happened at a different time of day it would have been very different.

I find myself continually wondering whilst driving to work or washing up, what would happen now if Wellington suffered an earthquake at this moment. Where are my kids, what would they do. Would P be okay in the centre of Wellington. How would I get to them if roads were blocked or there was a Tsunami? It has certainly brought home the reality of living in a Quake zone.

Strangely all this worrying has not made me want to return back to the UK. Despite the horrendous news footage and constant reminders of the ever present risk I still don't want to live anywhere else. I am not sure whether its the subconscious belief that "It will never happen here" which is obviously ridiculous as it will one day. Or perhaps its the belief that we will get through it. After all no one died in Christchurch?

I am obviously not the only person that has been re-alerted to the risks of living on an active fault line. Local newspapers in Wellington reported that during the first few days following the earthquake in Christchurch the supermarkets here sold out of all their emergency kits. Clearly other Wellingtonians felt that they had better stock up in case this meant the big one was on the way.

They Mayor of Wellington is also clearly concerned as he states that 600 Wellington buildings may need strengthening in order to withstand an earthquake of the same magnitude that hit Christchurch.

Apparently the council has recieved hundreds of calls from people concerned about the buildings they work in and wanting to know what to do should the big one hit. Its rather worrying that it has taken an earthquake close to home to make people wake up to the fact that at some point in the near future Wellington will be hit by a large quake. Its not a question of If but When!

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