Story: Historic earthquakes

Page 14. Personal stories of the 2010–11 Canterbury earthquakes

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The earthquakes that struck Canterbury in 2010 and 2011 are among the most significant events in New Zealand history. They have also caused enormous upheaval in the lives of the people who experienced them. By sharing those personal stories, people have helped write history as it happens, and have enabled others to understand their experiences.

These stories are just a few of the many shared on the QuakeStories site, a partnership between Manatū Taonga, the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, and NV Interactive.

Katie, Christchurch:

‘On Feb 22nd I was the head teacher at a large busy preschool. I was in the bathroom with one little girl, when the shaking started I scooped her up to run back to the classroom to comfort the other children but I couldn’t stay on my feet. I ended up on the floor, holding that wee girl tight, terrified. I could hear the children screaming in the classrooms, I kept calling out ‘turtle turtle’ like we’d practised but they were too scared to remember what to do...’ Continue reading on QuakeStories.govt.nz

Philip Broderick Willis, Linwood, Christchurch:

‘I was sitting on my couch yesterday, reading “The Plot Against America.” I was trying to psych myself up to getting up and getting hard to work, knocking some things off the to-do list before having to get Rose from school and before Michelle got home to a house that would (hopefully) be clean.

‘We’d had a couple small seismic rumbles that day; very tiny aftershocks from last September’s Darfield earthquake, or so I thought. As I sat on the sofa, my sensitive ears detected those deepest of bass notes that announce another aftershock, but within less than a second the vibrations had undergone a massive crescendo, and the house began roaring around me. I put my feet on the floor and braced my arms as the house was violently shaken, and this time things were different. It wasn’t like riding big waves, or being blown around in a high wind. It was the sharpest, most violent kind of shaking; as though the house sat on some giant mechanism of limitless force that was snapping it back and forth, up and down, however it liked. That the house stood up to it at all was pretty incredible. It seemed like just the shaking itself was physically painful, and the noise was incredible, deafening, like nothing I’ve heard or could compare it to. This time it was clear there would be damage, and it started right away as everything in the kitchen was hurled from benches and shelves onto the floor...’ Continue reading on QuakeStories.govt.nz

Kris, Rimu Street, Christchurch:

‘I woke up on Tuesday, 22 February 2011 feeling stressed about the work I needed to get done that day. When the earthquake struck, I was at my desk on Level 15 of the Forsyth Barr building writing legal submissions on an immigration matter. The earthquake struck out of nowhere and with intensity. Work was quickly forgotten. 

‘I jumped from my chair and tried to make my way away from the window and towards to my doorway. This was probably not the wisest move. My doorway was part of a glass wall, and I had to avoid a collapsing filing cabinet to get to the doorway, but I managed to get there safely enough.

‘One of my colleagues was standing in my doorway at the time. As I made it to the door, I turned back to look out my window. My office looked out to the north, over the PGG building, which had collapsed....’ Continue reading on QuakeStories.govt.nz

Paul Sterk, Oxford, Canterbury:

‘Colombo Street, Sydenham. My story begins when I drove through Buchan Street when the quake hit. I drove at about 40km/h and I could hardly keep my car on the road. It was also impossible for me to brake because my foot could not reach the brake pedal due to the violent shacking of the quake. 

‘Reaching Wordsworth Street I saw the dust clouds going up in the sky an I knew that a number buildings in Colombo Street had collapsed. Some of them sustained damage from the September quake and I expected it would be bad.

‘I parked my car at the corner of Buchan and Wordsworth Street and ran into Colombo Street end ended at the “Tasty Tucker Cafe”. People were already busy to retrieve injured people from the rubble...’ Continue reading on QuakeStories.govt.nz

Sarah, Fendalton, Christchurch:

What has changed for me in Christchurch where I have lived all my life after a year of nearly 8,000 earthquakes and aftershocks….

‘My cellphones are continually charged.
‘I have both Telecom and Vodafone cell phones.
‘We now have got an old push button- plugged into the wall- home phone again.
‘I have 3 emergency kits – one in each car and one at home.
‘I continually carry cash in my wallet.
‘I no longer spend time in shopping malls.
‘I haven’t been on a shopping expedition since Feb 2011...’ Continue reading on QuakeStories.govt.nz

Peter Low, New Brighton:

‘ABC from EQ CITY

‘Dear Whoever, I write this in May, 2011. Some people here in Christchurch are talking about things “getting back to normal” after the earthquakes. But I think we are adapting to a new kind of normality. A lot of things have become normal here that never used to be. Read this and see what you think.

‘A is for
Aftershocks. It is normal to feel aftershocks, in other words new earthquakes smaller than the big ones. There are thousands of these, according to the guys who measure their size (the “size-mologists”). Dozens of them are easily felt. An aftershock is certainly an earthquake. The earth moves! And a respectable earthquake doesn’t come alone.

‘B is for...’ Continue reading on QuakeStories.govt.nz

How to cite this page:

Eileen McSaveney, 'Historic earthquakes - Personal stories of the 2010–11 Canterbury earthquakes', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, http://www.TeAra.govt.nz/en/historic-earthquakes/page-14 (accessed 21 October 2017)

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