Wednesday, February 23, 2011


As many of you may have already heard on the news, Christchurch has been struck by yet another earthquake yesterday just before 1pm (local time).

To all the well wishers, thank you for your concern and support in this difficult time. Thankfully we're all safe and though shaken (and hoping to be able to have a decent shower sooner rather than later).

While typing this in the same place I was in nearly a day ago when the quake struck, there is a general feeling of despair for our fair city. First and foremost, condolences and best wishes for all the dead, trapped (and waiting to be freed), and wounded in collapsed buildings around the CBD; with deaths this time, it is really a more sorrowing experience.

Secondly, there's a sense that the situation is much more dire this time, with reports that most of the city's water-related infrastructure damaged or offline in an unusable condition. We're certainly in for the long haul this time I hate to think...

Finally, with so much more of the face of the city destroyed this time, be it collapsed, cracked, or flooded with liquefaction (oh the horror of the thought of this, and for the people affected by it)... wow... :( It's hard to believe that so many buildings that we once knew, many of which were quite iconic and beautiful in some way or another, have just caved in, sometimes onto buses carrying passengers is just shocking. It wasn't until late last night when we got some power back (but which was quite unstable, with flicking every few minutes and slow internet access, probably due to some damaged lines as well as heavy loading on the lines, all of which meant that I've waited till this morning before powering up my computer to write this) that we saw the true face of some of the damage: vast banks of shops along Manchester and Colombo Streets completely decimated, the spire of the famous cathedral in the square lobbed off at roof height like some eerie film set where they were going to do set extensions later (but yet the ugly carrot, sorry, I meant "fashionable Challace") still standing beside it. 


Yesterday's quake felt a lot stronger than the original September 4th one. A lot stronger.

As I mentioned earlier, I was sitting in front of my laptop here in my room, getting ready to start work on some assignments and checking my email after getting home from university barely 30 minutes earlier. The initial jolt was a bit of a surprise, but not entirely unexpected as we'd pretty much gotten used to the occasional small-ish shudder that would come along. Those are the ones you can get used to.

However, it soon became clear that this wasn't just going to be another touch-and-go shake, as the shaking continued, initially just doing rather random-ish shaking. It's interesting that you can never truly get used to these big ones... probably something about a natural instinct for being adverse to risk. Then, stuff starting pouring off the shelves of the bookshelves around me. You could literally see things just spilling onto the floor, while all the while, I could hear Mum screaming her head off in the other room. And then suddenly, there was big jolt, where still glued to my chair, I was shunted a high velocity what felt like 2 meters to the right, and then quickly pushed back to the left. I grabbed my desk and held on, waiting for the shaking to subside.

When it finally did, I gingerly picked my way out of my room. From prior experience I knew that the power would get cut in major shakes (something about an auto-cutoff mechanism in the power substations/transformers, where excessive oil-column movement would cut transmission to prevent fire), so I shut down my laptop at this point to save it's battery power.

Because we'd been renovating the house over the summer, we still had two bookcases lining the hallway, with ornaments which used to live on the mantle above one of the (defunct) fireplaces packed onto the shelves. However, as I was walking out from my room, the floor was littered with the pieces of broken ornaments as well as some which had fallen off the shelves. Included amongst those, were some old miniature bottles of wine/alcohol, some of which had leaked and left a splodge on the new carpet. Fortunately though, the bookcases had not fallen into each other (or maybe that had at some point, but rebounded back), thus blocking my exit, otherwise matters could have been a bit worse.

After carefully picking my way to the living room, the worst was yet to be confronted.

A shelf in the TV cabinet had collapsed, sending the VCR/DVD and SKY decoder (satellite pay-tv service) boxes falling onto the flatscreen TV, which in turn was knocked off the cabinet (falling domino style) and getting partially skewered on the fan in front of it on the floor. The fish tank, sitting beside the fan (it had been very hot the day before) was completely smashed into a multitude of pieces and segments (excellent case-study reference material for demolition simulation guys I guess). The water from that had spewed out all over the floor, also staining the new carpet there as well and awfully near the TV.

But all of that was subsidiary to the quick realisation that my fish would now be lying out in open air. I quickly spotted him: orange on greyish carpet is quite easy to spot I guess, in the middle of the floor. It had probably already been 2-3 minutes since the tank had broken and I'd been able to get out to see him in this state, lying motionless on his side already. However, having seen countless previous fish die on me while this fish had already survived over a year at my place, including the initial quake sitting on top of a table (in this same tank that was now broken, after having only migrated from one which was broken during that initial quake days earlier), I was not prepared to have him just go like that.

Looking around, my first instinct was to find a large container that I could fill with water. On the drying rack, I spotted a bowl we often used for dinner. Grabbing this, I proceeded to try and fill it with water fast (from the tap, as I wasn't sure we'd have had enough other water around), but it was clear that we'd already lost water pressure, as the water from the tap was only a slow fraction of what it usually was. I knew I needed to work fast, so once I thought I'd gotten enough water to just submerge my fish's head + gills, I quickly rushed off to try and save him from the carpet.

Fearing the worst, I formed a scoop with my hand and tried to spoon the poor fish into the waiting body of water. Just as I managed to touch the middle of its back, it started convulsing, wiggling its tail and flipping out of the way. This was a positive sign! With a second attempt, I managed to scoop him up and into the water at last. But we were not completely out of the woods yet. I soon found that I didn't actually have enough water in the dish, as the fish struggled on his side, half-floating, half-gasping, frantically flapping its fin. I knew I probably wouldn't be able to get the whole dish over the the sink again, so looking around, I found a glass, with which I got more water for the dish. Finally, with enough water, Bubu was finally able to right himself, and tentatively propped off to the side of the dish, though clearly quite battered from the recent ordeal. Red lines had already started showing in his tail, which I'm sure were probably signs of oxygen depletion or something similar.

It soon became apparent that this wasn't meant to be. For the next hour, we started to experience more aftershocks, some so big that it was impossible to keep standing (for one of these, I was initially standing, but had to quickly grab onto the nearest chairs to not fall over, and even then, I felt like I was about to go sliding across the room at any instant). After each one of these, half of the water from Bubu's temporary shelter would have splashed out, and Bubu would one again be reduced to floating on the surface on his side, painfully gasping until I managed to refill the water in the container as above.

After doing this a few times, I finally went to grab a bucket, which I filled with some more water from the tap (the water flow now was even worse than at first, having now been reduced to perhaps 1/8th of the normal pressure I estimating), pouring my battered fish with what water had had left into there. In total, I made sure there was less than half the bucket filled so that it wasn't that likely to all slop out, and so far (touch wood) it hasn't experienced any spillage yet. A few hours later, while cleaning up, I noticed that my fish was happily swimming around again in the bucket, which was a really relieving sight. I had managed to save one little life on such a dark day.

Meanwhile, Mum had gone into complete shock. Fortunately, Dad called from work to say that he was fine, though they'd been quite shaken 4 floors up (apparently it would've been even worse on the 6th floor in a new research building there), and that he was coming home as people were evacuating the buildings at that time.

As for the TV, we found out later that evening (after the power finally came back on, fortunately before darkness set in completely) that it was practically a write-off. It seems that the impact with the fan, right in the middle of the screen had not only scratched the surface, but had actually caused impact damage to the screen itself, with a weird mutli-coloured pattern appearing on the screen. This pattern had a clear impact mark right in the center where it was apparent the impact had occurred (this looked like a bunch of rainbow-coloured concentric circles veering towards white), with white triangular chunks radiating from it along the 180-270 degree quadrant (anticlockwise rotation order). There was also a large irregular shaped region of solid colour below these triangles spanning down towards the bottom of the screen, and two smaller slices of similar problems to the left and the right. Also, there were these black and multi-coloured lines running horizontally and vertically just down from the top left corner, with these bands in total being about 2 inches thick, and appearing a bit like a frame. Additionally, the top of the case had a few thin dents (probably the impact point with the tank). The only thing that wasn't broken was the sound system, and a 2cm region at the top of the screen.

Speaking of damaged stuff, most if not all of our bookcases have now also been damaged. The aftershocks to this earthquake (which we really don't believe was "just" a 6.3), which continued all afternoon regularly and strongly (one was a 5.7, which is probably the one I mentioned above) all the way through the night (it was really hard to get any sleep at all... every time I just about dozed off, another one would come rattling through, shaking everything, with one even knocking stuff off shelves again), caused the books on them to shun backwards, breaking the back panels of these right off.

Fortunately, the new kitchen faired relatively well. Apart from some of the drawers sliding open, the cupboard doors largely stayed shut, which prevent a lot of glassware from spilling out and breaking this time.


  1. Not cool. Good that nobody on your side got injured.

  2. Very glad to hear you're ok. Luckily confirmed with my relatives they're allright, though one pair of aunt and uncle suffered damage to their home on the hills, still uncertain of the extent since they don't have power or water yet there.