Story: Historic earthquakes

An enormous bang

An enormous bang

Concerned about my children in Whakatāne 35 kilometres away, I rang Whakatāne Intermediate School and spoke to the secretary. She said they had felt it too, and that they were OK, just a few things fell off the shelves. Then she said ‘I've got to go, we're having another one and it's really big’, and the phone went dead. I told my colleagues another quake was coming and we ran to stand in doorways. Thirty seconds later nothing had happened, so we returned to our desks. Then all of a sudden, just as a client was coming in the sliding doors, there was an enormous bang and the earthquake had arrived in Kawerau. The rest is history.

We tried to go back inside the building to grab the phone as it was ringing all the time, but there were shocks coming thick and fast every minute or so. It took my husband and me two hours to get back to Whakatāne, as almost all the bridges had either dropped at the approaches or were raised up so we couldn't cross over them.

Our neighbour across the road found a roast in the warming drawer of the oven two weeks later, after trying to find the awful smell in her kitchen. It appears the fridge had waltzed over to the stove across the room, and opened the freezer at the same moment that the warming drawer opened. The roast fell in, the drawer closed and the fridge waltzed back to its original position. Very strange.

We were fortunate to have an old shed on our property, and there was an earth floor lean-to out the back of it. My son had arrived home, dug a hole and made an old beer crate into a toilet seat, as we had no water or sewerage facilities for a few days.

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library, Dominion Post Collection (PAColl-7327)
Reference: EP/1987/1018/12
Photograph by John Nicholson

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Eileen McSaveney, 'Historic earthquakes - Personal stories of earthquakes since 1942', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 15 July 2024)

Story by Eileen McSaveney, published 12 Jun 2006, reviewed & revised 28 Mar 2011, updated 1 Nov 2017