English: Quake epicenters. Română: Epicentre a...
English: Quake epicenters. Română: Epicentre ale cutremurelor produse în intervalul de ani 1963–1998. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This week’s subject pretty much suggested itself. There I was, sitting at my desk, and suddenly I felt this rolling, shaking sensation. Well, I feel it every time a truck goes past, but this time the shaking continued and it became apparent that this was an earthquake. It measured 6.6 on the earthquake scale and was the biggest one I can remember for a long time. Fortunately we were not at the epicentre and no one was killed. Those living close to the epicentre had a rougher time than we did and many houses were damaged, though only one appears to have been severely damaged.

(Note: Images in this post are not from the Wellington earthquakes that I am talking about in this post).

Since we are prone to earthquakes here the children in school are drilled in what to do when an earthquake strikes. I particularly like the idea expressed by one child that “earthquakes cause salamis”. (See the second video on the page that is linked to above.)

Earthquake Drill
Earthquake Drill (Photo credit: Benjamin Chun)

The previous earthquake happened when I was at home. Instinctively my wife ran for the door. I equally instinctively rushed to stop the TV from toppling! It’s funny what you do in an emergency.

Luckily no one was seriously hurt in the earthquakes though people in lifts (elevators) and at the top of high buildings were shaken about a bit. Apparently lifts (elevators) are designed to stop moving if there is a big quake.

In the city nothing much was damaged, although a lift (elevator) shaft which was damaged in an earlier quake is scheduled to be removed and one ‘lane’ (pedestrian access between buildings) in the city centre was taped off by authorities. Last time there was a certain amount of damage but nothing significant, though people were sent home so that the buildings could be checked. A rugby test match between New Zealand and Australia may be cancelled. That’s classified as a Big Thing round here.

Footbridge over Avon river following both Sept...
Footbridge over Avon river following both September and February earthquakes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All in all, people have taken the earthquake in their stride, though news pictures showed some people who appeared to be in shock. The one injury that I heard of was one woman who tried to dive under her desk and missed cracking her head against it. I saw a picture of two girls hiding under a desk with a bottle of wine. That’s apparently what they had been doing all afternoon. One guy texted from the airport and said that he would be glad to get up into the air. (As it happens the airport stopped flights in and out for a while, but they soon caught up with the backlog).

Naturally people wanted to go home to be with their families and to check that their houses had not been damaged. This led to the roads out of and around the city becoming gridlocked. I didn’t want to get caught up in that so I hung around until just before the time that rush hour usually happens  and my trip home was in fact easier than usual. I did wonder what would happen if a significant earthquake or after shock happened while I was travelling at 100kph on the motorway! Also, there is a part of my route that lies under a motorway bridge, and there was a chance that I’d get stuck at the traffic lights. Fortunately they were showing green so I did not have to stop under the heavy concrete spans of the motorway. That would have been scary.

Footbridge over Avon river following both Sept...
Footbridge over Avon river following both September and February earthquakes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The thing about earthquakes is that you don’t know how powerful they are going to be. You don’t know if it is going to be a jiggle and a roll or whether it is going to rip the building apart underneath you. I find them scary and exhilarating. After one is over people are often more relaxed than before it, and gather to exchange news and ‘war stories’. At least, that is so in the earthquakes that I have so far experienced. But they have been relatively benign.

Unfortunately this was not true nearer the epicentre where almost all the houses had some damage, though no serious injuries have been suffered and no fatalities have happened.

Wellington office after earthquake.

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