Christchurch earthquake

You’ve probably seen the news about the huge earthquake in Christchurch, the biggest city in the South Island of New Zealand.  Pretty flipping frightening, I imagine: Kiwis grow up being told what to do in earthquakes because we live on a country of fault lines, but it’s fairly hard to get under a sturdy table or take shelter in a door frame when the quake hits at 4.30 in the morning.  It’s astonishing that nobody was killed and there were only a couple of people suffering serious injuries.

It looks like it’s going to be a massive – and very expensive – repair job.  Apparently at least 20% of houses are now uninhabitable and the total cost of repairs to buildings, roads and infrastructure is estimated at NZ$2 billion.  And there are always aftershocks, which will be both terrifying and, potentially, more damaging.

Watching it all unfold from the other side of the world, I’ve been really impressed by the way in which my country has dealt with things so far.  It’s obvious that the relevant governments at both local and national level have done their preparation for this kind of event: it seems like everything is being managed very efficiently and sensibly and they’re already getting essential services working again.  They’ve done things like setting a night time curfew in the central business district, both to prevent people being injured by failing buildings and to prevent looting (there’s been a few people trying their luck, but the police have dealt with it really quickly).  And they’ve sorted out housing shelters and for people who can’t or don’t want to stay at home.  Small towns have been badly affected as well and when you read about what went on it is so lucky that things weren’t a great deal worse.  But it’s really nice to hear that people are helping each other out, which is nothing less than I would expect from Kiwis, of course…

It has made me think of one thing, though: when you live in NZ you’re given advice about emergency supplies on a regular basis, but I haven’t known of anybody who has actually assembled the sensible kit of blankets, safe drinking water, tinned food, candles, a radio and batteries, etc.  We didn’t do it either when I was living there.  It’s idiotic when you think about it: disasters can strike at any time anywhere, but the whole earthquake risk in New Zealand make the odds particularly high.  Any Kiwis who are reading my blog: please sort out your emergency kits immediately!

And I have no idea whether it will occur to the rest of the world to help out my country with this drama, but if you would like to so I would recommend a donation via the New Zealand Red Cross appeal – mention ‘Canterbury Earthquake Appeal’ in the details/reference section.

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