New Zealand is a young, restless country where land often shakes in serious of small earthquakes. The islands lie on the margin of two colliding tectonic plates; the Pacific and Indo-Australian Plates. There are some 14,000 earthquakes a year, but only 150 are usually felt. If earthquakes are not enough there are also several active and some dormant volcanic cones in the North Island. It all makes for interesting living!
Three years ago I was living through horrifying experience of Christchurch earthquakes. First one in September 2010 measured 7.1 Richter Scale and caused terrible damage, but there was no loss of lives. I will never forget the feeling of being jolted out of bed at 4:30am and running outside while earth is moving beneath. Or the eerie silence that fell over the city. On 22 of February 2011 another earthquake hit Christchurch measuring 6.3 but causing far more damage and 181 deaths, as it occurred around lunch time and was centered closer to the city than the first one. The agony of hours it took to find out that my daughter was fine cannot be summoned in words, only in measure of relief once I knew she is okay as her school did not sustain any serious damage. While thankfully neither of us was injured, only terribly frightened, my heart ached for all the devastation around me and especially loss of lives. Christchurch, the second largest city in New Zealand, was once beautiful and known as a ‘garden city.’ The huge rebuilding work is underway now and there is a hope that Christchurch will emerge even more beautiful once rebuild.
Last year I moved from Christchurch to Wellington for my work. And this weekend it was Wellington’s turn to shake!
String of quakes started with a 5.7 magnitude jolt around 9am on Friday, followed by a 5.8 on Sunday morning, 6.5 later in the afternoon and some 120 aftershocks since. I can feel small jolts of them while typing these lines!
While the quakes have not been as high-energy as in Christchurch and therefore have not, thankfully, caused loss of lives or substantial damage, with only four people reported as suffered minor injuries, parts of the Wellington central city have been cordoned off this morning. There is some damage to the port and lot of mess to clean up in some buildings from broken glass and failed masonry. People living in tall apartment buildings feared worse and thousands huddled under tables and door frames.
We are instructed to avoid central city if possible today and to expect ‘a level of severe inconvenience for some time yet.’
However, GNS scientists said Wellingtoninas have been very fortunate indeed as the quakes were not cantered closer to the city; if they had been under the city they would have caused equal or similar damage to what happened in Christchurch.
While the chances of another big quake are reportedly diminishing, that is far from certain. And that uncertainty is what makes earthquakes truly terrifying. Not knowing whether it will happen again within the next ten minutes, or ten years … only knowing that it will happen.
With that in mind wishing the best of luck to all my fellow quake-veterans from the Shaky Isles!
- Earthquake in New Zealand: 6.9 Quake Causes Minor Damage (theepochtimes.com)
- Second strong quake hits New Zealand (bigpondnews.com)
- 5.7 earthquake rocks central NZ (stuff.co.nz)