Firsthand accounts of the February 2011 earthquake: ‘I take a look at my life now in two totally different eras’

Summer Shalders (Olliver) was trapped and badly injured in the collapse of the PGC Building.

2021-02-24 04:25:36

Warning: This story accommodates first-hand accounts of the Christchurch 2011 earthquake that could be distressing for some readers.

Some have most likely informed their tales many occasions to family and friends. Their accounts are all fragments of the identical story – the story of a damaged metropolis.

Summer Shalders (Olliver) was trapped and badly injured in the collapse of the PGC Building.

Summer season Shalders (Olliver) was trapped and badly injured within the collapse of the PGC Constructing.
Photograph: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Those that have been in Christchurch on 22 February 2011 all have a narrative to inform.

Some have most likely informed their tales many occasions to family and friends – they have used to them and the tales have come to outline the day for them.

They’re all speaking about the identical day, tales unfold concurrently, they overlap – folks cross paths and assist one another.

Their accounts are all fragments of the identical story – all little items of a much bigger narrative – the story of a damaged metropolis.

RNZ marks 10 years for the reason that main earthquake on 22 February 2011 with Fragments, produced and offered by Christchurch-based journalist Katy Gosset.

The sequence brings collectively an archive of first-hand accounts recorded within the months following the devastating earthquake, by locals Julie Hutton and Sandra Shut.

Ten years on, RNZ checked in with a number of the survivors to replicate on their experiences.

How has surviving the quake modified the best way they reside?

Episode 2: The PGC Constructing

The Pyne Gould Company (PGC) constructing stood at 233 Cambridge Terrace till moments after the 22 February earthquake struck.

It suffered what has been described as a “catastrophic” collapse.

Inbuilt 1966, the five-storey constructing close to the band rotunda within the metropolis centre, had six companies tenanting it.

A report for the Ministry of Enterprise, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) by Beca after the quake discovered the shaking skilled was “a number of occasions bigger than the masses the constructing was designed to withstand”.

Nonetheless, it concluded that regardless of different earlier quakes “there have been few, if any, indicators that the constructing had been considerably distressed within the shaking that had occurred, or that collapse was a chance”.

Eighteen folks died when the constructing collapsed.

This episode is about those that have been contained in the constructing, and those that got here to the rescue.


Monique Mclennan had simply began heating her lunch when the quake struck and he or she was trapped inside.

“I began the remorse means of I want I might performed this with my life; I want I might performed this; I want I might informed my household that I like them that one final time.”

She took shelter underneath a desk – and may nonetheless bear in mind the sensation of it urgent down on her – and the worry.

Generally the odor of mud can take her again. She was recognized with acute post-traumatic stress and later misplaced her job.

However within the 10 years for the reason that earthquake, she says her life has “modified considerably” and for the higher.

“I take a look at my life form of now in two very totally different eras. There was the pre-earthquake Monique after which there’s the post-earthquake Monique. And they’re simply so totally different folks.

“As soon as I acquired by way of all of my post-traumatic stress I form of determined ‘you understand what I’ve solely acquired one life to reside so why am I making an attempt to work inside these boundaries different folks have put in entrance of me?’.”

  • Watch Episode 1 right here
  • Summer season Olliver was inside, too.

    “It was greater than any of the opposite ones and all I bear in mind is simply dropping to the bottom and making an attempt to get underneath my desk … to show how fast it was my leg was nonetheless hanging out from the desk and a six-tonne beam had dropped on my decrease again.”

    That was a life-changing occasion. The injury it induced resulted in quite a lot of restoration and ache remedy. It was an expertise you reside with greater than bear in mind, she says.

    The last decade for the reason that quake has seen good issues for Summer season, too. She is married and has had two youngsters. Having to be so organised in her ache administration has made her organised in her parenting too.

    And he or she feels a kinship with others who’ve gone by way of trauma; fellow quake survivors, the Whakaari/White Island victims and the households of those that died within the Christchurch mosque assaults.


    Outdoors the constructing, folks have been making ready to come back to the rescue nearly as quickly because it collapsed.

    Dave Lang was working subsequent door. From his workplace, he watched the PGC constructing collapse about 30 metres away.

    “In the direction of the tip of the shaking I circled and appeared out of my window and as I did that I noticed the Pyne Gould Constructing simply collapse and it … it … it simply appeared to go down like that and with the sound of speeding water, which I assume was breaking glass and concrete and stuff.”

    Lang and colleagues have been among the many first on the scene.

    In the meantime, Fireplace and Emergency assistant space commander Steve Kennedy was on the best way.

    “The shaking had stopped so primarily from there I assumed, ‘hey, look, we have gotta get all people organised’.”

    With hearth engines out on the highway, sooner or later “a man got here operating by way of the group and he mentioned: ‘look, the PGC Constructing has collapsed’, and so I made a decision that I might take my equipment spherical to that.”

    Constructing contractor Peter Riley was in motion, too.

    He’d been at residence doing paperwork then tried to contact his daughter after which his buddy Tony Tamakehu who runs an organization supplying rigging and lifting tools.

    They headed to the PGC constructing.

    “Tony picked me up, tooled up, jumped within the ute and made our manner in.”

    The pair have been amongst those that labored to free survivors caught inside.

    Tony nonetheless lives in Christchurch – in contrast to Peter, who moved away.

    He nonetheless has the identical job. He tries to say sure to journey or different alternatives if he can. “Life’s quick,” he says.

    There’ve been some adjustments, all regular life stuff Tony reckons. He is separated from his spouse and lives in an residence within the metropolis, fairly close to the location of the PGC constructing.

    “I go it each morning. Once in a while I will swing by there and sit on the wee seat they have there, have a wee suppose. Take into consideration the individuals who aren’t with us anymore. Yeah. The way it impacts their households.”

    You may hear extra about what life is like for quake survivors 10 years on by listening to Fragments Episode 2: The PGC Constructing.

    Fragments is written and offered by Katy Gosset and co-produced by Gosset and Justin Gregory. It is engineered by Alex Harmer and Rangi Powick. Video content material is by Nathan McKinnon. Tim Watkin is the chief producer of Podcasts and Collection.

    Because of Julie Hutton and Sandra Shut for his or her work in recording interviews and to those that agreed to be re-interviewed by RNZ.

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