Christchurch earthquake – personal story
In November 2016 I was living in Christchurch when an earthquake hit the area. It was two minutes past midnight when the house began to shake. I just fell asleep and I didn’t realise what was going on, I heard voices outside so I decided to go and see what was happening. Everyone outside was in shock and they shouted “earthquake, earthquake”. Immediately I started to panic, I had seen enough images of earthquakes and you immediately expect the worst. The sirens went off straight away as well and that assured me that things were very wrong.
We all went back into the house and turned on the news to see what was going on. In the meantime, the house kept shaking, but fortunately nothing fell off the walls, cupboards and other furniture. On the news, we got some more information about the earthquake and heard that an alarm had gone off that there might be a tsunami. They advised anyone living near the sea to evacuate to a higher area or further inland. We lived reasonably close to the sea, but we were unsure whether we should also evacuate. In the group of people I was with, there was a lot of uncertainty about what to do, but I was sure I wanted to leave. Everything took too long for me and since I had a car I decided to just get in the car by myself and I drove off.
I felt very panicked and felt like I was racing against the clock. I was picturing images of gigantic tsunamis so I wanted to be as far away from the sea as possible. I eventually stopped in Sheffield and slept in the car (luckily I had a mattress in the car). Sheffield is 55km from Christchurch, a bit exaggerated in hindsight, but you don’t think about that at the time.
The next day
The next day I drove back to Christchurch where I expected to see the whole city in ruins, but luckily the damage was not visible at all. This earthquake released shocks that moved the buildings sideways, instead of up and down, limiting the damage. The following days we also suffered from after shocks, which made the buildings shake every time.
Outside of Christchurch
Christchurch survived this earthquake well, but unfortunately other places in New Zealand weren’t as lucky. The earthquake was felt in a lot of places in New Zealand, including Kaikoura (180 km away from Christchurch) and Wellington on the North Island. Kaikoura has been affected the most by this earthquake, as can be seen in the pictures below (these pictures were taken a few weeks after the earthquake). The roads were cracked open, the train tracks were covered with stones, walking routes were cracked open, and many marine animals left the area because the earthquake destroyed their habitat. Unfortunately, rebuilding everything took a few years but luckily the marine animals are back now, the roads are open again and almost everything is as it was before.
It was a bizarre experience that luckily ended well for most people. Unfortunately that is not always the case, Christchurch was hit by an earthquake in 2011 that destroyed the entire city. Ten years later, they are still rebuilding the city, this time with stronger buildings, so that hopefully the city will remain standing next time. Because there will be a next time as Christchurch is located in an earthquake zone.