We had a good Christmas and New Year here. It was all pretty relaxed with plenty of sunshine, cold Sauvignon Blanc in the garden and great riverside walks with the dogs.
My mum is visiting at the moment so we did a bit of a day trip out into the Canterbury countryside. We went off-road and drove through some spectacular scenery with winding rivers and waterfalls. The track cut through some country sheep and cattle “stations” – basically very large farms. There were enormous bulls roaming at the side of the road and we came across the obligatory NZ rural traffic jam – a road full of sheep. I got my exercise by jumping in and out of the car opening endless gates.
However, there have been some less relaxing moments. We had yet another quake on the last Friday before Christmas. At a magnitude of 5.8 it was significant enough to see shopping centres closed and office workers sent home early. It was then followed by a couple more strong quakes that afternoon and yet more on the 1st Jan when most of Canterbury spent the night awake as quake after quake rolled through.
They call them aftershocks here as they believe they are all part of the sequence of tremors that kicked off in September 2010. I remember that first big quake quite clearly. We were living in our previous house at the time. We woke at 4.30am to a loud, rumbling sound. “Earthquake”, we both said as the house started to shake. We stumbled down the corridor in the pitch dark, the house rolling and rattling around us.
It was hard to see anything when we got out into the back garden but I could hear the sound of gushing water. I figured some pipe must have burst or something, but actually it was water sloshing out of the pool. The whole thing probably lasted about 30 seconds, but at the time it felt like an age.
In the 15 months since then Canterbury has experienced thousands of quakes, including the major one last February that made the news round the world. But since June last year things had been really quiet. I think we were all hoping that the earth had settled down. Earthquake repairs were starting and people were trying to get back to normal. So this latest spate of tremors has been a real setback for the city.
The reality is New Zealand is prone to natural hazards. There are regular television ads advising people to keep emergency provisions, have emergency evacuation plans, etc. The ad directs people to a site called www.getthru.govt.nzwhich gives good, level-headed advice on how to be prepared for floods, storms, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. The focus is on being self-reliant and taking some sensible precautions. In other words, keep calm and carry on - that’s what we’re all trying to do in Canterbury at the moment.
All the best,