Saturday, December 17, 2016

Rumblings, rocking's and risk assessments.

The picture above was taken on our road a few weeks ago just after the big earthquake and the flooding. We have always known that Wellington was at risk from earthquakes but we have had some strong reminders of the potential for natural disasters recently.

On November the 14th the top of the South Island and the southern section of the North Island was hit by a magnitude 7.8 earthquake. It certainly woke us up with a jolt when it hit at 12.02am. I woke up when I felt our bed shake which I thought was my other half fidgeting. It then began to shake quite violently and we both jumped out of bed, stood staring at each other for a good 10 seconds trying to figure out if the shaking was going to stop.  It didn't, so we stumbled at high speed down two flights of stairs to check on the kids.

By the time we got down to their bedrooms the house had stopped moving but the lamp shades where still swinging back and forth fiercely. The kids where both quite shaken but I managed to convince them to go back to sleep as surprisingly nothing had fallen off the shelves and a quick glance around the interior of the house showed no obvious damage.

We returned to bed, shaken, but not overly concerned. It was by far the biggest earthquake we had ever experienced but the house seemed to have coped with it well. I had already checked Facebook (font of all knowledge) and lots of people had commented on the earth moving and it appeared that those in central Wellington had been hit worse in this area. GeoNet (best source of info on all things earthquake or volcanic) said that the quake was centred on the South Island 15km north of Culverden and that their was a tsunami risk.

Thankfully we are at the top of a big hill, so even though we are only a few minutes walk from the beach we do not have to evacuate in the event of earthquakes. Unfortunately others in our little village are not so lucky. A few of the people living on the waterfront got in their cars and drove up our hill, spending the rest of the night sleeping in their cars. Had I known this I would have offered them a bed for the night.

In the end I got very little sleep the rest of the night. When you feel the ground beneath your feet shift and your entire surroundings wobble and shake its very difficult to lie down and switch your brain off again.  I spent my time messing around on Facebook reading the updates from around NZ. It was not really until the morning that the country realised the extent of the damage in Kaikoura.  A lot of the hotels and tall buildings in Wellington were evacuated straight after the earthquake and the images of the dazed and half dressed people wondering around the familiar city in the dark were quite stark and disturbing. My other half went straight back to sleep and snored away until sunrise. Most unfair.

When we woke it was to news that no trains where running into the city and people were being advised not to travel in until engineers had been able to assess the damage. Quite a few schools were shut and helicopters where already in the air assessing the damage near the epicentre on the South Island.

In the end my other half, along with many others, had to work from home for a week as his building was deemed unsafe. Quite a few buildings in the city have been cordoned off and are either being strengthened or in extreme cases demolished.

Overall I think these events have made a lot of people re-assess their emergency plans and double check their emergency kits. It has heightened the general publics awareness of the risk we all live with daily.

We worked in London during the 7/11 London bombings. That was scary. I guess this risk is too, although somehow more acceptable. It's a natural risk, something we can do nothing about. We can prepare for it but if and when it happens there is no-one we can blame as its an act of nature. I find that more acceptable than an act of hatred that all acts of terrorism are.

We have updated our emergency kit and discussed emergency plans as a family. I love where we live and I am willing to accept that we live with the knowledge that at some point in the future there will be another big earthquake in this region. All we can do is prepare as best as possible for this unpredictable, and rather amazing, natural event.

Then just a day later we had the flooding!

A huge amount of rain fell in a very short stretch of time. Roads in our town became impassable and it took us three hours to do a journey that normally takes 10 minutes.

Hopefully we have had our share of extreme events for this year!

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