Christchurch experienced a 5.7 magnitude earthquake today. When it happened, the kids and I were enjoying the warm weather, sun, and beautiful New Brighton Beach. It was an absolutely gorgeous, quiet summer afternoon.
Just around 1:15pm, the girls were splashing in the surf and Calvin and I were sitting on the sand when I heard this really loud sudden rumbling sound.
And then the ground beneath us started to rock and shake. I’ve only felt a couple of earthquakes as an adult, and this was by far the most intense I’ve been in. There was no doubt what it was, unlike the Delaware quake a few years back when I thought for a few seconds that my kids were rampaging around on the second floor of our house.
I grabbed Calvin and made him get down because he was unsteady on his feet (understandably so…). It felt like it lasted a while but probably wasn’t that long.
Here’s a map from GeoNet, which records and shares earthquake measurements from around New Zealand. The large red dot is where the quake was centered. Now trace your finger directly to the land to the left of the dot. That’s where we were at the beach. Which explains why, of all the places around the city (and country–people reported feeling the quake as far north as Hawkes Bay and as far south as Invercargill), the ground where we were moved the fastest.
Until today I had never needed to know about a measurement called Peak Ground Acceleration. But I sure felt it.
The scariest part for me, I think, in the moment, was looking out across the water over to the Port Hills. To the beach we nearly went to today instead of New Brighton. I could see huge tan plumes of dust floating up from the seawater and over the hills.
Reports indicate that cliffs fell in Godley Head, Sumner, and Taylor’s Mistake. Thankfully, no casualties or serious injuries have been reported either. So that’s a huge relief. However, there was further damage to the Christchurch Cathedral, private residences, and some shopping areas. Many stores closed and will remain closed until engineers can inspect them and/or repairs can be made.
I could see some Cantabrians’ faces were tense. Just next week is the 5 year anniversary of the February 22, 2011 6.3 magnitude earthquake that killed 185 people and devastated the infastructure and buildings throughout Christchurch. People took to Twitter and Facebook to talk about how today’s quake took them back to that day and the aftershocks that followed.
At the time of this writing, 8 hours after the intial strong earthquake, more than 53 aftershocks have rumbled through, several strong enough to show visible shaking.
For me, personally, the hardest part was that James was out of town on an all day tramping trip in Arthur’s Pass. Though the mountain he was climbing is 2 hours from Christchurch by car, I worried about the possibility of danger where he was. It was some time before I heard from him via text and then phone call that he was fine. They hadn’t even felt the earthquake where they were and he had not known anything was going on until he returned to an area with mobile phone coverage, at which point he immediately contacted me.
Evelyn, who is often off in her own little world, does not seem to be too perturbed by the quaking. She has missed several that have made the rest of us swoon.
Charlotte and Calvin, on the other hand, seem on edge. Even though I have assured them that we are safe in our house, and we have gone over the safety precautions to take when an earthquake starts, they both feel rather nervous.
It was definitely an unusual day.
(Kia Kaha is a Maori phrase meaning ‘Stay strong,’ used as an affirmation or statement of solidarity in difficulty.)
The Christchurch quake this afternoon made headlines elsewhere: