Christchurch earthquake quotes | hot water

The Lyttelton Timeball Station was one of the last remaining operational in the world

Christchurch earthquake quotes | hot water.  From the Hot Water blog…


Grilly’s Story

Sometimes I wonder if you’re just better off not knowing.  At least at the time something happens.

As it turns out, Grilly had been in the central city when the proverbial balloon went up on Tuesday 22nd.

Having attended mass in the Holy Cross Chapel in Chancery Lane, just off Cathedral Square at 12.05pm, the service ended at approximately 12.35pm.  Shortly after that Grilly headed across Cathedral Square and past the Cathedral at about 12.40pm.  She was headed for the Bus Exchange and entered off Colombo St to wait at her platform in the main waiting area of the Exchange on Lichfield St.  She had enough time to note that her bus, the No. 5, was due in 9 minutes.  For some reason, unknown to her, she chose to sit near the door – something she doesn’t usually do.

In the 5 minutes before the earthquake struck, she spoke to one of the many uniformed school students heading home for a teacher-only day.  It was a busy lunchtime crowd inside the Exchange.  At 12.51pm violent shaking began, windows shattered and material started falling on everyone, possibly from the ceiling.  Grilly said it sounded like everyone screamed at once and begun pouring out onto Lichfield St.  The jolting threw her against the doorway on her way out.  The outside of the building started shedding chunks of masonry.  Within seconds it seemed, there were police telling everyone to get into the middle of the street away from the falling pieces of buildings all around them.  Bricks and tiles from the already damaged Dowsons building  and the Exchange itself were raining down.  Grilly saw some of the school children hit by masonry and bleeding and one girl slumped against the building was carried away by two men.

People stumbled down Lichfield St, picking their way over rubble and fallen blocks and bits of building.  She moved as if in a daze, unsure of where she was and what street she was on – so many familiar buildings were down that there were very few landmarks to get her bearings from.  Everything was covered by the hanging haze of dust.  It was then that this horrible moment that no child wishes to see their parent in was captured on film and shown around the world.  My sister saw it on TV first and prepared the rest of us for the shock of seeing her there (at 1.53 in the video below – thanks to Logan from Gorilla Pictures):

Like I said, sometimes maybe, you’re better off not knowing.  Here’s my sister’s story.

What Grilly recalls next is the kindness of a series of strangers.  A tiny episode of so many in the unfolding stories of this disaster.  First she was noticed, dazed and in shock, by a man who picked her up and sat her on a car bonnet until she was able to continue.  Next two young women looked after her and sent me a text saying my mother was OK and was with them.  In some amazing act of foresight Grilly was carrying a piece of paper in her bag with my mobile number on it.  I received these texts while desperately trying to get through traffic to her house.  I thought they were from neighbours in her street at the time.  These two wonderful young people managed to get another family of strangers to take Grilly in their car and drive her home.  They had only arrived in NZ two weeks earlier and were unsure of their way around, navigating by map, in a disaster zone.

Somehow, through this lack of familiarity with Christchurch they managed to take an unusual route to Grilly’s area, meaning they missed most of the log-jammed traffic.  The streets around Linwood and further east to Aranui and beyond were badly affected by subsidence, liquefaction and flooding.  The family were able to get Grilly close to her street and let her out.  The final amazing act in her incredible journey home – two men appeared out of houses and carried her across a severly flooded intersection to reach her house.

There are very few strangers in our city now.  Those of us who are fortunate, or blessed if you prefer, to be alive and able to tell their tale, are part of a stronger community now.  We, all of us, are survivors, not victims.  And we carry each other across the floods.

My Story

I remember thinking that I’d left it too late to go and get some lunch before a 1pm meeting via skype.

I’d been in another one all morning which had left me feeling somehow, a little flat.  I was currently immersed in configuring my brand spanking new and grunty as hell PC which had arrived after months of concerted lobbying (read: whinging) by yours truly.

I looked up at the clock, prompted by some rude grumblings in my belly only to be dismayed by the news it told me: 12.45pm – not enough time to obtain and devour a sandwich before the meeting.  Oh for the days before webcams when you could sneak a bite or two around the edges of a conversation and no-one was any the wiser.  My heart fell even further when I realised I wouldn’t be free until 2.30-3pm by which time all convenient eateries would be closed, or picked clean by the vultures from the surrounding office buildings.  Such are the trials of an inner city worker.

I don’t remember what I did next exactly, probably consoled myself with how wonderful, gorgeous and silent my new computer was, but about 5 minutes later, my agenda for the afternoon and the course of our lives was changed irrevocably.

Agenda for afternoon of Tuesday 22nd February (updated)

  1. 12.51pm: get under desk (much, much harder than it sounded to do).
  2. 12.51and-a-bit: attempt to stay covered by now alarmingly mobile desk – try to avoid glass from shattering windows.
  3. 12.51and-a-bit-more: shout to colleagues to get under cover and keep away from windows – opportunity to consider present situation re. being four storeys off the ground with a further 3 storeys of concrete above my head (but mind kept wandering off-task to how Wiz and Seraphine were).
  4. 12.52pm: decide whether to get out from under now thankfully, stationary desk (tough decision).

My 1pm meeting was now so far from my mind as to be in another country, one where the ground doesn’t rear up and swerve like some drunken bus driver from hell.  My agenda was suddenly, second to second and minute to minute, about survival.

In that first minute I recall so many noises and sensations, none of them good.  I couldn’t believe how hard it was to negotiate the small distance off my chair and under the desk.  I just kept getting biffed around and slammed into my desk a couple of times before I managed to get under it.  I could hear screaming, both inside and outside my building – as the windows broke, the outside was suddenly a lot louder and I could hear the screams of people pouring into Latimer Square outside my window.  I remember wondering, stupidly, how they got there so quickly.  There was some other incredibly loud noise which I would find out about later.

I remember marvelling at how lightly and matter-of-factly the office immediately turned itself upside down and threw itself to the floor.  I remember seeing my mobile phone sail off my desk (along with most everything else) and noting where it slid under a pile of  what previously would have been terribly important work but was now nothing more than paper and folders I would happily step on without a second thought when I got out. Everyone on my floor started calling out to each other to check in but they all shouted at the same time and I couldn’t tell whether they were OK, hurt or trapped and calling for help.

When I crawled out from under my desk with my bag I seriously wondered for a moment whether we should stay put – trying to remember the earthquake emergency procedures.  I briefly saw my colleagues go past the doorway, I noticed Vaea already had her fire warden armband on and was taking control.  Grant came in to see me – I put the question to him – I think I must have sounded a bit dazed and he made sure I understood that item 5 on my agenda was to get the f&*k out of the building immediately.  (He would never use that language, of course, some words have been changed to incriminate the innocent).

This is where I got a bit strange.  I looked sadly at my new computer which had toppled over.  I then reached out and set it upright – the only such object in the room – I think I seriously considered taking it with me for a split-second before reaching for my jacket.  I always keep my wallet and keys in my jacket so I instinctively knew I had everything important.  Having noticed where the mobile landed was a stroke of luck as I honestly don’t remember picking it up.   I then had to pick my route out of the office.  It involved some clambering and leaping and suddenly I was in the now much darker hall near the lifts and stairs.  There was the sound of running water very close by but I couldn’t see it anywhere.  Grant was making sure I was coming and got me to the stairs.  Someone was having a panic attack on the landing and another of my colleagues was helping them breathe and get control.  There were other people crying but still moving.  It seemed a long way down those stairs right then.

The ground floor was covered in glass where the large glass wall that displayed the buildings tenants had shattered – this had stayed intact in the September earthquake and I started to get a very bad feeling.

We walked outside, a block wall had collapsed in the carpark on top of a couple of cars.  We crossed the road into Latimer Square where literally hundreds of people were gathering in varying states of shock, disbelief or just numbness.  It wasn’t until I was on the other side of the road when I turned around to look at our building and saw the cause of the huge noise I’d heard in the shake – The entire front half of Charlie B’s backpacker hotel across the road from us had collapsed behind its protective barricades (it had been declared unsafe following the September quake so was empty thankfully).  Clouds of dust were merging into a haze all over the park.  The Christchurch Club, a historic wooden building on the parks west side had also collapsed.  No-one could remember whether it had been closed after September and therefore was empty or not.

Another historic backpackers up the road had partially collapsed – this time with many people inside – the first injured people we saw started coming from there.  They were bleeding and covered in dust and in shock.  People were walking in stunned circles.

Agenda for afternoon of Tuesday 22nd February (updated) continued…

6.  Contact Lizzie and Seraphine

7.  Contact Grilly and siblings

8.  Get home

I immediately phoned Lizzie and somehow got a precious few seconds of talk time with her – she and Seraphine were both OK but the house had been trashed inside.  Those few seconds of hearing her voice… she sounded calm and brave even though I knew she wasn’t feeling it – she was conscious of how Seraphine would be reacting to her.  She told me she’d be fine – go get my mother.  I loved her so much right then.

I spent the next half hour trying unsuccessfully to call my family.  I was worried for my brother who works in a large print press facility with many heavy machines in the CBD and Grilly who of course lives by herself.  I didn’t know she wasn’t at home…

Texts seemed to be intermittently getting through.  I heard from my sister that she was OK and going for her daughters.  My brother too, although very little information beyond he was alive.

A friend that I’d thought was still overseas appeared out of nowhere.  She was in shock and very disorientated.  In my own shock-induced daftness I simply held her and said “I thought you were in Sri Lanka?”  After a while she kind of ‘woke up’ and swung into action herself, looking out and caring for those around us in shock.  She finally decided to walk to her house, just south of the CBD but returned minutes later saying the roads were blocked, a building had come down just south of Latimer Square – this was the CTV building.  When I eventually left the park she was looking after some very upset people and offering neck and shoulder rubs, helping any way she could.

Another friend appeared out of the crowd carrying her 6 month old baby – she was crying.  She had been in the CTV building and somehow managed to escape.  She had no idea who’d gotten out and who hadn’t.  Rumours started spreading through the park that the cathedral had collapsed.  I didn’t want to believe that.

The only person I hadn’t managed to reach on my list was Grilly.  After speaking to Lizzie the plan had changed.  There was obviously no way to get home to Lyttelton – buses instantly stopped and the roads would be jammed with people fleeing the city.  There was no way the tunnel would be open and unaffected.  I wished I’d biked to work that day. I found out later that many people got to Heathcote and simply walked over the Bridle Path like a re-enactment of the early settlers crossing the Port Hills in reverse.  A couple would lose their lives in a rockslide after dark.

My colleague Vaea had her car and was heading east – her daughter had got in touch and said the house was badly damaged.  Steve decided to walk it – it proved the quicker option.  I stayed with Vaea and we limped along in the eastbound traffic for two and a half hours to get to Aranui.  I got out and walked at Cowles Stadium where major liquefaction had swallowed a car and caused a river to be flowing over the road.  There were massive cracks and upshifts in the road out there.  As I got closer to Grilly’s house the flooding and liquefaction grew worse but all the houses were standing.  I was dreading what I might find.

It was nearly 4 hours after the quake when I walked up the drive.  I heard voices and a long-time neighbour was at the door.  I heard Grilly’s voice down the hall and I felt like hugging everyone.  She was OK, but she had just got home herself – having been carried the last stretch, over the flooding by two men from down the street.  She too had been in the central city I was finding out and lucky to be here.  Her story is amazing…

Earthquake info

Just added a new link category below with, so far, two important links to information on the earthquake.  Canterbury Earthquake is the Civil Defence site with all the vital information on the emergency response – where to get water, food etc and what services are available and where.  It also has live updates of the rescue and response efforts by City Council, Civil Defence, Urban Search & Rescue,  and the Defence Forces etc.

Canterbury Quake Live provides up to date data on aftershocks, magnitude, location, depth etc.  All presented in natty little graphs and based on data directly from GeoNet.  Morbidly fascinating to those of us in the thick of it.

Thanks to everyone for all the kind thoughts, wishes and prayers.  We’re doing fine and will write some stories about it all soon.  May even include a tasteful picture of our new luxury outdoor toilet facility (they’re all the rage on t’interweb y’know).  Lyttelton is still without mains water…

… and rocked, again

Somehow, we are all fine. All family accounted for and safe for now.

Which is more than I can say for the city.  It’s almost too big to write about just now and some others are doing a great job anyway… in case you haven’t heard:

The Day the Earth Roared.

Moata Tamaira’s Blog IdleEverything has shifted.

How we rolled

Go-By-Bike Day NZ was Wednesday 16th February.

Some of the team got into the spirit and we met at Victoria Square for the free breakfast organised by the spiffing chaps at Spokes Canterbury, (the Canterbury Cyclists Association) among others.  (Where were you Soph?)  From what I understand the different venues were organised by different groups.  Vic Square had free coffee!  Click on Spokes to go to their website and tell ’em what a jolly good show, chaps!  Also in attendance was Cycling Advocates Network (CAN) whom last year I bought this excellent accoutrement from:

less cars, more calf muscles.

As was the nice gentleman from Velo-Ideale, emporium of fabulous bikes and pieces such as this: (it might not be the best bike shop in the world, but at least it’s not in Islington…)

coffee time, comin' through!

As sported by our very own Chief Executive on her awesome retro bike – and my own Boss-Lady couldn’t resist getting one for her new/old treadley either.

I noticed that the only coverage Christchurch’s-own bastion of mediocrity, The Press, provided the next day was a small article headlined “Cyclist hurt on special day for cycling” or something like that.  It went on to describe the one and only negative incident to mar an otherwise excellent promotion.  But I suppose “Hundreds of cyclists enjoy incident-free commute, free breakfast” doesn’t make for good (sensational) news.

Or does it?  Here’s a little feature on Canterbury Television about the event at Vic Square.

And how do we roll?  Well a little bit like this:

The Chic Cyclistas

Go-By-Bike Day!

Yes yes, you say.  We get all this good stuff about why active transport is so great yada yada. So what are we doing about all this?  Aha!  I’m glad you/I asked!

Obviously I’m not the only one who sees the importance of getting people active (obviously).  I’m just the only active blogger promoting active transport who’s actually ‘bone idle’ (as my brother would say).  It’s a strange claim to fame, but I’ll take it.  I’ve just noticed that my bike has mysteriously become covered in cobwebs…


Anyway.  I wanted to shine a light on this great event which is part of Bike Wise Month held every year in NZ during February.  Implemented and promoted by Bike Wise, a government initiative funded by the NZ Transport Agency and the Ministry of Health.  I hope that doesn’t make it somehow less sexy, I just wanted to say ‘fair go’, the G-men are actually trying to do something positive.

This coming Wednesday 16th February is Go-By-Bike Day nationwide.  By my reckoning on the Bike Wise website there are about 80 events planned for Wednesday alone.  Let alone the rest of the month.  Go-By-Bike Day events tend to involve enticing commuters to cycle by offering free breakfasts to cyclists.

Here’s a link to the Christchurch event, they’re offering brekkie at 4 different locations in the central city.  I’m gonna try and get my whole team to bike to work and meet for a breakfast together so if you’re in ChCh bike along and I’ll see you there!  I’ll be giving away free subscriptions to ToC 😉  And while we’re at it maybe we’ll all wear our best ‘bib n’ tucker’ and make it a real cycle chic event.  Boss-Lady recently purchased a rather fabulous reconditioned granny-style, sit-up-and-beg (love that name) bike, complete with basket on the front.  Puts my mountain bike to shame.  But wait til they get a load of my retro suit!

Need some inspiration?  Look no further.  Well no, do look further but here’s a good start…

How to Make Biking Mainstream: Urban Planning Lessons from the Dutch

How to Make Biking Mainstream: Urban Planning Lessons from the Dutch by Jay Walljasper.

Another interesting article in Yes! Magazine.  The Netherlands have a story to tell when it comes to getting more people onto bikes and out of cars.

A commitment to biking is not uniquely imprinted in the Dutch DNA. It is the result of a conscious push to promote biking.

So it’s not easy but it is possible.  We just need the will to do it.

Some amazing stats in here:

In the Netherlands 27 % of all daily trips are made by bicycle. Doesn’t sound like much?  Compare it to the best of Europe: Denmark is 18 %, Germany 12 % and the U.S.? Try 1 %.  Oh dear…

Get on yer bike!

(Now where did I put my copy of ‘Learning how to Practice what you Preach in 10 easy steps…’)

How to Be a Car-Free Family

How to Be a Car-Free Family by Angela and Dorea Vierling-Claassen.

Our Massachusetts heroes Angela and Dorea Vierling-Claassen had this article appear in that most excellent of publications, Yes! Magazine.

It’s a good introduction to their blog which we also talked about right back at the beginning… Just the little bit of inspiration one needs on a rainy, southerly day.

And another thing… Pedestrian Thinking?

Following on from the last post – no wonder we have such a hard time convincing people to consider the creation of a walking city (note: a walking city includes our rollin’ brothers & sisters).

The word ‘pedestrian’ has become in our society a kind of insult, meaning: slow, stulted, non-creative, inefficient and a bit lame.  In other words not fast, not sexy, not cool.  Which is why I love the work of Living Streets Aotearoa. From their website:

We want more people walking and enjoying public spaces be they young or old, fast or slow, whether walking, sitting, commuting, shopping, between appointments, or out on the streets for exercise, for leisure or for pleasure.

Let’s take back our public spaces!

This is from the page I linked to in the previous post: the Traffic Transport & Road Safety Associates (Ireland) website.  But it was so compelling I just wanted to give it a post all to itself.  Here’s the link again:


Why Pedestrianise?
  • Improving Road Safety – reducing the potential for conflict between vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists and motor vehicles creates a significant reduction in the number of accidents within the pedestrianised area.  In Odda in Norway accident reductions of over 80% were reported.
  • Improving Economic Vitality – most retailers, at least in town centres, appreciate that the number of people walking past their shop and not the number of people driving past their shop is key to getting people inside to spend money.  Pedestrians comparison shop, and research conducted in the United Kingdom reported increases in sales of upto 20% per year in the first few years following pedestrianisation. Research from 11 cities in Germany showed average rent increases of 50% after pedestrianisation. Chartered Surveyor Weekly reported that following the introduction of the footstreets concept in York, United Kingdom, a boom in retail sales was accompanied by rent increases of upto 400%.
  • Improving Social Interaction – increasing the amount that people meet, talk and interact, has been shown to have health benefits, but also creates a sense of community and a pride in the space or place.
  • Improving Health – in the same way that providing streets to drive on has been shown to increase traffic levels, providing a good walking environment has been shown to increase the number of people walking. Studies tend to show that the number of people walking within the immediate area will increase by over 50%.
  • Improving the environment – It is over 30 years since the OECD studied the link between environmental improvement and the removal of traffic.  Whilst some of the noted benefits such as reductions in Carbon Monoxide have now been addressed through the introduction of catalytic converters to vehicles, creating a modal shift from the car to walking reduces the level of CO2 helping the country to meet its emissions targets. Noise levels are also reduced by up to 15 decibels.


So, what kind of city do you want to live in?