Story: Historic earthquakes

Shaking in the Press Building

Shaking in the Press Building

David Bately describes his experience of the February 2011 earthquake in Christchurch.

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Contributed by David Bately

At 12.51 p.m. on Tuesday 22 February I was on the ground floor of the Press Building in Cathedral Square, working as an advertising consultant. The quake started with a small amount of movement and rapidly accelerated to a violent shaking. I got under my desk and rode it out. The noise was thunderous and much of the noise was our own building coming down around us. The lights went out and a thick cloud of choking dust enveloped us.

As soon as the shaking stopped I came out from under my desk and yelled at everyone to ‘Get out!’ I ran to the nearest exit door but could not open it as it was obstructed. Adrenalin then took over, I heaved the door open and clambered over obstructions on the stairs. Then I opened the external door onto Press Lane and was met with piles of fallen masonry from our building. I clambered over the masonry with most of my co-workers behind me, in hot pursuit.

Once clear of the building, we were met with the stark reality that the roof of the building had collapsed onto the third floor; we held grave fears for our friends on that floor. Looking around we saw that the cathedral spire and bell chamber had collapsed. There were many dazed and shocked faces everywhere.

Then another powerful aftershock came, and more rubble and dust rolled towards us. We regrouped in a less dangerous place on Gloucester Street for a head count, death and destruction was all around us.

Cellphones would not work due to overloading, we could not contact loved ones. I found two colleagues who live near me and we formed a small group and walked home, hoping to be reunited with our families and hoping that our homes were still standing.

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How to cite this page:

Eileen McSaveney, 'Historic earthquakes - The 2011 Christchurch earthquake', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/community-contribution/32303/shaking-in-the-press-building (accessed 18 October 2017)

Story by Eileen McSaveney, published 12 Jun 2006, reviewed & revised 28 Mar 2011, updated 1 Nov 2016