The Longest Week: February 25, 2011

Christchurch Canterbury Earthquake

These have been four long endless days since the 6.3 magnitude earthquake struck on the afternoon of February 22.   Centered in the port town of Lyttleton,  Christchurch and Lyttleton have suffered enormous tragedy this week and it feels quite surreal to view the news and see the devastation that is such a short distance away.   From 40 miles away at our property in Wainui, we have gone virtually unscathed – a few broken dishes and glasses, but that’s about it.   We felt it though, three large jolts in one afternoon,  the first knocking out power, the second knocking things off the shelves.   We knew it was a ‘big’ one and this was confirmed shortly thereafter once the battery operated transistor radio was located.

The news was hard to hear – collapsed buildings, people killed, landslides and liquefaction wiping out whole areas.   We had phone service but most of Christchurch did not so it was the mobile phone networks that kept people connected.    We immediately started sending out messages to all our dear friends and slowly, over the days, we got word back from people.   Everyone we know in the area is alive for which we are sincerely grateful;  however several have lost their homes.

We are here in Wainui with our builder Ollie and two woofers who had only just arrived the evening before.    The five of us watched the news unfold and we texted and called whomever we could to get firsthand information.     And as we waited for word back over the days, we kept ourselves busy and got things done around the property.   The household kept running.

What does one do in such a crisis when you’re not in the thick of it?    People have different coping mechanisms.    My need is to get connected and find out what’s happening.  Facebook has been a powerful tool for such a thing and seeing regular updates from friends all over the city that they were okay has been such a relief.    As power slowly resumed across the city, I’ve been able to talk on the phone with friends and neighbors.        Certain areas of the city besides the central business district have been hit hard and we have friends in those areas who are still without power and water.   Yet most other people I’ve talked to say they are fine and don’t need anything.  Water service has come back, power is on, they can get to grocery stores and many businesses are open.   So what to do?  How to help?

I have been inundated by emails from friends all over the world sending their good wishes and willingness to help in any way.   Thank you all for these messages.     If you are keen, make a donation to the Red Cross, Salvation Army and other relief organizations through any of these New Zealand banking institutions.   Many have waived the standard international bank transfer fees.

ASB Bank

ANZ Bank



If you are in the region and you want to volunteer or have accommodation you can offer:

The Salvation Army is accepting offers of volunteers.   Call:  04 384 5649

Trade Me has a dedicated page to list information about accommodation, volunteer labour, transport, and help with finding lost pets.

There are certainly many ways for people to help even if it is just holding a good thought in your minds for a few minutes a day.    We have friends who’ll be coming up from down south with a trailer load of food, water, wheelbarrows, shovels, blankets, etc.    And we’ll be heading back to Christchurch on Sunday with a carload of fresh spring water, bags of fruit from our trees, and baked goods to distribute to friends and neighbors.

From the ashes shall rise the phoenix.   It is truly amazing to witness the spirit of people in the face of tragedy.  The weeks, months, and probably years ahead will be difficult and long, but Christchurch will rise again, this I am certain.