‘It wasn’t simply damaged buildings, shattered nerves, however lives misplaced’ – RNZ reporter recollects Christchurch quake

Rubble and damaged buildings line a deserted Colombo street in central Christchurch after the quake.

2021-02-22 13:15:10

The experiences on 22 February 2011 of three Radio New Zealand reporters who had been working in Christchurch on the day the earthquake hit.

Rubble and damaged buildings line a deserted Colombo street in central Christchurch after the quake.

Pictured is Colombo Avenue which neighbours Chester Avenue West the place the earlier RNZ workplace was situated when the Christchurch quake hit.
Photograph: AFP

The air filled with mud, sirens wailing from each course and a highway, which you usually can solely cross by darting throughout earlier than the following automobile arrives, delivered to a cease – that is what involves thoughts once I consider that day.

The earthquake hit at 9 minutes to at least one within the afternoon.

I might been at my desk working away on a narrative about how Christchurch was recovering six months on from “the large one” the 7.1 magnitude earthquake which had hit close to Christchurch on four September the earlier 12 months.

Christchurch had come by means of that September earthquake remarkably properly, we had congratulated ourselves.

The overwhelming majority of buildings had stayed up, harm to infrastructure had been comparatively restricted, and life was starting to get again to regular, aside from these ongoing aftershocks.

The aftershocks had been relentless, annoying, unnerving, generally a number of in a day, then a niche simply to allow you to drop your defences after which they might begin once more. They’d tended to be simply sufficient to shatter your nerves, not sufficient to trigger harm.

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I do know I might began to suppose those that leaped underneath the desk at each shake had been unnecessarily nervous. In spite of everything, we would made it by means of a 7.1 earthquake, certainly nothing worse would occur. Seems I used to be unsuitable.

On 22 February we had been hit once more.

A 6.three magnitude, however this time very near town. It was over fairly shortly, 10 seconds apparently. It definitely felt like a really lengthy 10 seconds, and it was 10 seconds that modified Christchurch perpetually.

Our Radio New Zealand constructing on Chester Avenue West stood up fairly properly, fortunately. As soon as all within the workplace had gathered themselves up, we had been capable of get out pretty simply, with the one hiccup that the entrance door of our constructing was twisted. The door would not push very far open, so one after the other we squeezed by means of the hole, all of us little question hoping one other aftershock would not hit simply then.

Then we had been out on the road. The blessed road. Open air was what all of us craved that day. Open house and a few agency land to face on. Not a lot to ask for.

Our workplace was on Chester Avenue West, close to the nook of Durham Avenue.

We would bought out of our constructing and stood catching our breath on Durham Avenue. Making an attempt to get our heads round what had simply occurred.

The suburb of Brooklands had about 500 homes prior to the earthquakes, now about 20 remain with people living in them.

The suburb of Brooklands had about 500 properties previous to the earthquakes. (File picture),
Photograph: RNZ / Rachel Graham

The mud filling the air was notably thick as a result of we had been near the outdated stone Methodist Church constructing, which now lay in ruins. A traditional heavy stone church, product of Port Hills basalt and Charteris Bay sandstone. It had been badly broken within the September earthquake and had been out of use since then.

Unknown to us on the day of the earthquake it was in use.

4 folks had occurred to be working within the constructing making an attempt to take away the organ. One of many 4 had stepped exterior for a break when the earthquake hit trapping and killing the opposite three inside the constructing.

I solely learnt that weeks later.

And generally it’s a thought which lurks in my thoughts once I consider that day. How totally different would that day have been for us if we would recognized that there have been folks useless, or badly injured and trapped, inside one of many first buildings we walked previous.

As an alternative, it was a rising dreadful realisation as the day progressed, that the day had been so lethal.

However we did not know, so we walked on.

On to the road, all automobiles had stopped and we walked down the center of the highway to be as distant from buildings as potential.

Another reporter, Bridget Mills, and I quickly headed on to the Christchurch Regional Council’s Civil Defence bunker. It was right here round an hour after the earthquake hit that we bought affirmation that there had been deaths within the earthquake.

I used to be about to go to air for a stay cross into the 2pm information bulletin when the Fireplace Service confirmed to Bridget that there had positively been deaths.

I went again to them to verify simply to be fully positive. It was an uncommon and unnerving affirmation, because the emergency providers are sometimes reluctant to verify something too early. Their certainty that there had been deaths, plural, however no different particular particulars, gave us a glimpse of the numbers that may observe. They knew folks could be useless, however could not say what number of or the place.

For me, that was once I realised how critical the state of affairs was.

It wasn’t simply damaged buildings, shattered nerves and roads which might have to be mounted but once more, however lives misplaced.

I used to be fairly aware because the information went out that this is able to be the information folks feared, those that nonetheless hadn’t reached their family members. Those that had been caught within the big site visitors jams listening to the radio removed from dwelling.

The numbers had been to develop all through the day. By 5pm it was 65 useless, however we knew there was doubtlessly a few hundred folks lacking, notably within the two foremost buildings the place folks had been trapped, Pyne Gould Guiness and the CTV constructing.

A day which had began for me speaking to folks for what was proving to be an upbeat piece about Christchurch’s recovering after the September quake ended with me sitting at Latimer Sq. close to the collapsed CTV constructing as evening fell, with emergency staff battling to avoid wasting what lives they might, and devastated members of the family sitting in little huddles ready for phrase of their family members.

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