I’ve often talked about earthquakes in New Zealand, especially since the destructive Christchurch earthquake in 2012, and the fact that here in Wellington we live on a major fault-line, stuck right above the boundary of the Pacific tectonic plate and the Australian plate. It is always at the back of our minds here, and now, after a major 7.8 earthquake struck in the north of the South Island two weeks ago it has once again been brought to fore. We were fortunate to be out of town, comfortable in our bed in the gorgeous resort town of Queenstown in the south of the South Island, completely oblivious that the earth had moved so much, until we were woken by my phone beeping, with texts asking if we were okay.
I hate earthquakes, and I have ever since I moved to Wellington, so I guess choosing a house on stilts on the side of a steep hill wasn’t the wisest decision, given that it moves (as it is designed to do) and shakes in the wind let alone in an earthquake. I’m glad I wasn’t here for the rocking and rolling and shaking my friends, family and neighbours experienced in Wellington, which was still so many times better than what the residents of North Canterbury and Marlborough and Kaikoura endured, and came home to a house that came through completely unscathed, which could have been very different, as I am sure it has been (or will be) for my friend from Kaikoura who was in the US on a holiday at the time.
This time last week I was in the home of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc when I experienced a couple of aftershocks, each around a magnitude 5. I found that for the first time the shaking didn’t bother me, as – unlike any earthquakes I’ve experienced here in my precariously situated home in Wellington, or even the aftershocks experienced a few days earlier on the fifth floor of an apartment block in Christchurch – I was staying in a single story hotel room, and felt very secure and safe so close to the ground.
As my hairdresser said to me this morning, whilst these earthquakes – so soon (in the scheme of things) after the Christchurch earthquakes) – might not have materially affected our houses, they have changed the way we think. They have reminded us to consider preparations for a repeat or bigger earthquakes, including (but not only) simple things like:
- using Blu-tac to secure pictures or photos or other breakables in cabinets and on shelves and on our walls (thanks to my Christchurch friend for this advice), or
- to ensure we have comfortable shoes when we leave the house (and maybe socks, so we don’t get blisters trying to walk home), or
- the need to attach some key pieces of furniture to our walls (an example of basic earthquake preparedness), or
- the advisability of retaining a landline and a phone that works without needing power charging, or perhaps the need to ensure that we have extra supplies of necessary medication with us whenever we leave the house, or
- the foresight to maintain our cars with at least half a tank of petrol (gas),
- to always have some cash in our wallets (NZers are high users of EFTPOS, and often don’t carry any cash), and
- not to eat all our emergency canned food supplies simply because we forget or can’t be bothered to replenish them.