It was a normal working day in the office one day in April 1990. The machines were on, as were the computers, and nothing was out of the ordinary. Around 1.30 pm, my feet trembled, the desk vibrated, and my coffee sloshed in the cup, but didn’t splash anything. I wasn’t alone in the experience as everyone else in the office felt it, and general consensus was it was the after effects of a large lorry passing close to the building.
It was announced on the News that night that a small earth tremor had occurred some 30 odd miles away but had not been sufficient to cause any damage.
On the 27th February 2008, we were awoken at around 1am by a loud rumble. Hubby knew exactly what it was, and I told him not to be ridiculous. The dog was a little unsettled, but we all managed to get back to sleep OK.
Sure enough on the News the following morning, it was confirmed that it had indeed been an earthquake. A property in the village had slight damage to their chimney stack, and a pub in a main town some 10 miles way had to be closed for substantial repairs.
Reports said it lasted approximately 10 seconds and had measured 5.2 on the Richter Scale. The tremor was the largest earthquake to affect the UK since the Llyn Peninsula Earthquake in 1984 which had measured 5.4.
A total of nine aftershocks were recorded. The largest, measuring 2.8 on the Richter scale, occurred around five weeks after the initial event, on 5 April at 13:57GMT .
I visited my brother for a couple of months in 2010, and in all honesty forgot about the time differences when texting my Hubby to tell him what I was doing, where I was going, and sharing my experiences with him via our very basic mobile phones.
I had promised to be in touch every day. On my third day, I received a message from him asking simply ‘R U OK?’
I replied telling him not to worry as the earthquake was in Christchurch on NZ’s South Island, and I was safe.
My phone then rang and he shouted ‘What earthquake? I didn’t send you all that way to get pancaked by a bloody earthquake! I want you home on the next plane!’
I’d responded to his message thinking he had heard the news of the devastating quake that hit New Zealand on September 4th. Not so. His message was a general enquiry as he hadn’t heard from me that day yet.
I managed to calm him down, and he spoke to my brother who confirmed that we were all perfectly OK and there was nothing to worry about.
Weeks later, I visited a friend in Napier, enjoying an extremely pleasant week. I loved the architecture and took some beautiful photographs. We were sitting watching a film one evening when I felt vibration under my feet, and my friend said not to worry. It was just a minor tremor, and they had them all the time. She explained that the entire town had been flattened by an earthquake in the 30s and rebuilt.
In 1931, New Zealand’s deadliest earthquake devastated the cities of Napier and Hastings. At least 256 people died in the magnitude 7.8 earthquake – 161 in Napier, 93 in Hastings, and 2 in Wairoa.
On Tuesday morning, 3 February 1931, at 10.47 a.m., the ground in the Hawke’s Bay region heaved sharply upward and swayed. A deceptive half-minute pause was followed by a downward motion and violent shaking and rocking. In all, the quake spanned two and a half minutes.
Ten days after the quake, the region was shaken by the largest aftershock since the initial earthquake, a powerful magnitude 7.3 jolt that did yet more damage to already weakened buildings.(Source: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand website).
Later on my holiday, I took a week to explore both islands on a rail package, which included a trip to Christchurch. I was undecided about going bearing in mind the recent events, but as I had given both Hubby in the UK and my brother an itinerary of where I was going and when, plus where I would be staying and their phone numbers, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity so I kept to my schedule.
Although I didn’t see that much of it as I had a day trip booked elsewhere, the mini bus driver drove through various areas that had been affected, and it was amazing how some buildings had remained intact whilst others had been so badly damaged. I had 2 nights booked in at a hostel, the first of which I was restless. It didn’t help that the window by my bed had a massive crack in it, and the building behind had sustained some damage. However, the authorities had given the hostel the all clear, though there were plenty of notices up as to what to do and where to go in an emergency. I gave up on sleep at 4am and got up to have a shower. I am not sure if it was my imagination or if there really was a tremor as I was washing my hair. I remember trying to work out if I had time for a full rinse, should I rush out wrapped in a towel immediately, or was I just overreacting. I finished my shower very quickly, got dressed even more quickly, and went into the computer room to check the news headlines and emails.
The rest of my trip was enjoyable and uneventful, and I arrived safely back at the train station in Auckland where my brother was waiting for me as arranged.
Once back in the UK, there were several reports of aftershocks and when another quake hit Christchurch in February 2011, I could identify with several of the places that had been affected. One of these was the hostel where I had been staying, and I sent an email to their Head Office passing on my concerns for the staff’s safety. I had a prompt response thanking me for my message and to let me know that all members of staff had been accounted for. Sadly the hostel had suffered substantial damage this time and was now closed until further notice.
It followed nearly six months after the magnitude 7.1 Canterbury earthquake of Sept 4th 2010 which caused significant damage to Christchurch and the central Canterbury region, but no direct fatalities.
The earthquake caused widespread damage across Christchurch, especially in the central city and eastern suburbs, with damage exacerbated by buildings and infrastructure already being weakened by the 4 September 2010 earthquake and its aftershocks. While the initial quake only lasted around 10 seconds, the vicinity and depth of its location to Christchurch in addition to the previous quakes were the reason for so much destruction.
In total, 185 people were killed in the earthquake, making it the second-deadliest natural disaster recorded in New Zealand after the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake. (Source: WIKI)
Obviously, tremors and quakes are accepted as part of their way of life, not only in NZ but all other countries that are affected by these natural phenomena. I admit I was a little twitchy in the shower that morning, but my experience was nothing compared to those who have had to deal with a major event.
A little footnote from WIKI on tremors in the UK though:
Approximately 200 earthquakes occur in the UK every year, approximately 175 of which are too weak to be noticed by humans.
We have often thought the dog senses something we can’t see or feel. Maybe this explains it.