Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Quake!

Growing up a country that’s very young (geologically that is, although John Cunningham probably still jokes that it closed at 8pm … In 1950!) as New Zealand is, earthquakes are a fact of life – and it’s the seismic activity that brought about most of New Zealand’s natural beauty.

I’ve been in a few in my time, the most memorable of which was one that was (if I remember rightly) a 6.7 on the Richter Scale and really shook the house up at breakfast time at our house in Dunedin.

But this weekend it’s been something quite different, with a massive quake of 7.1 hitting Canterbury. The epicentre was about the same distance off the coast of Christchurch as the Haiti quake (also a 7.1) was to Port-au-Prince.

It was the worst quake in New Zealand for 80 years, when there were two 7.8 quakes in a period of two years (my late grandmother remembered the Murchison quake only too well).

While 230,000 people were killed in Haiti there was just one person lost in the Canterbury quake, and that was due to a heart attack during the big shake.

There’s an interesting article as to why there was such a big difference here, but the fact it was at 0435 in the morning and in a much richer country have to be the key factors (the ‘depth’ of the epicentre in the earth is usually the other key one). All the same, something like NZD$4bn worth of damage has been caused (c£1.9bn).

I don’t have any close family (just some cousins of my Dad, and they are all fine - but dealing with property damage) in the Christchurch area, but my best friend from school Bernie lives there and posted some scary pictures on Facebook (which I have blatantly plagiarised):
I feel especially sorry for his daughter, who has been terrified with all the aftershocks, and it’s been really heart wrenching to read some of the bloggers and Twitterers, but at the same time some of the most spectacular pictures have been posted online:
Also, have a look at the Google Earth visualisation of the quake.

While some of the gallows humour (a friend of mine decided it wasn’t serious as Dunedin was just lightly shaken awake and no beer spilt!) has no doubt kept spirits up, it does make me think of the ‘big one’ we were always told was on the way as I grew up … and most likely to hit Wellington (where my nephews live). Fingers crossed it doesn’t happen in their lifetime.

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