It is 5:58pm as I write this post, having been up for over 13 hours (and counting) in a sleep deprived and increasingly paranoid state.
You may or may not have heard already, that Christchurch (my hometown) has been ravaged by a 7.1 quake overnight at about 4:35am this morning (September 4th, 2010), centered just ~30km from the city centre and at a relatively shallow depth of 10km. There has been quite a bit of property damage: many shops and buildings, especially in the CBD have been damaged, some to the extent where large parts have collapsed. Here we've gotten off a bit lighter, but with quite a lot of broken glass, displaced stuff, and paper/books soaked when water splashed out of the fish tank during the shaking. Fortunately though, there haven't been any loss of life arising from this major disaster yet.
Moments before the shaking began I suddenly awoke (as you strangely tend to do). Then the shaking began: a slow side-to-side motion which quickly became increasingly more violent, rumbling and rattling the whole house like a hungry bear shaking honey out of a hive. At first I thought it would just be another one of the quick and light, 'passing' ones that wouldn't do much harm. But then it just kept shaking and shaking, getting more violent. In the room around me, I could hear the sound of heaps of stuff toppling and/or falling on the floor. The sound of glass breaking... at the time, I thought it was the sound of my windows blowing out, but I think now that it was the sound of my fish's old home smashing against the ground (fortunately, the fish moved into a larger home just last week). Boom! The street lights (and power supply with it) cut out. More stuff started falling, and then the doors (room door and closet doors) started popping out of their frames, banging open and shut with each violent jerk of the ground. It was a terrifying experience, one that dragged on for what seemed like a very long time - it was shaking for at least a minute. Stuck in bed, with closet doors within a footstep of the bed violently slamming open and closed nearby, and the sound of stuff falling all around me, I clung on hoping, no willing, the shaking to stop playing its little practical joke.
At long last, the shaking subsided, with some residual rattling still carrying on for a little longer. Cautiously, I grabbed the torch, and crept across to the neighbouring room to check on Mum and Dad. It was quickly starting to get very cold in the house as the heating had all but stopped when the power cut out, and the doors, having been forced open by the jolts had let in all the icy cold air. Keeping warm was difficult: by the time I had returned to my room to get changed into some warmer clothing, I was shaking really badly, perhaps even worse than those times I've had really bad food poisoning and spent much of the night shivering with a churning stomach.
Dressed in thick jackets, gloves, and layers of warm clothing (that didn't seem warm enough), we crept around the house inspecting the damage. Each sweep of the torch revealed new areas of shock and horror: the extent of the damage was far greater than we would have guessed. However, progress was slow, as every few minutes, another bout of shaking would commence, many violent (though not as bad as the initial round). While going to extract the sole portable radio from the other side of the house, we discovered the glass-graveyard: most of mum's favourite Mexican glasses had been thrown off the shelf, and shattered in a messy pile of bitsey fragments all over the carpet, obstructing a major path through the house.
With this shock out of the way and the radio in hand, we retreated back to one of the bedrooms - the warmer one - and consigned ourselves to listening to radio reports of what was happening (and what to do next) while waiting for daylight to break. Meanwhile, the aftershocks continued: periodically (every 5-7 mins) rocking the house, rattling and terrorising its inhabitants. Cycling between sitting/curled up and trying fruitlessly to get some more sleep (I had only crept into bed a few, er 3, short hours before) we waited for the darkness to fade, and the ever elusive dawn to break.
Finally, the skies began getting lighter, and so a mad dash to try and collect up some clean water before the water supply cut out was made. The power was already long gone, and much of the house was cooling increasingly quickly. With the light of day, the full extent of the fury unleashed upon our house became more obvious. Meanwhile, the aftershocks still continued; less frequently, but with more intensity when they did occur.
~~ cut forward a few hours ~~
At midday, the power finally came back on (at our place), and water supplies were equally running okay again. In the hours that had passed, the aftershocks had still continued pretty consistently, with some that were extra strong (especially one around 7:50am) and some periods (30-50 minutes) where hardly any aftershocks were felt for a while.
With the power back on, we could start watching the TV news broadcasts of the situation. As the broadcast proceeded, it became obvious just how serious the destruction really was, with flooding in some areas, large cracks in the ground appearing in many other areas, mostly brick facades collapsing, and train tracks that had gone swervy. Also, the situation started becoming increasingly grim, with suggestions of bad weather (strong winds, leading to very strong possibility of blackouts and further potential damage to houses and property/cars) for tomorrow, talk of fire breaking out at a few inner-city buildings, experts predicting an even larger aftershock to still come, and a prediction for cold temperatures overnight again.
Now the aftershocks are still continuing. They seem to have started picking up in intensity again while I've been typing this, starting to violently shear the ground beneath us again. Hopefully the power will still stay up overnight...
Anyways, gotta go. A rather large aftershock just started shaking the house now!