Just a note to let you know that I am fine. As far as I know, my family in Christchurch is also fine. As far as I can see from the clues on facebook, my friends appear to be fine - a relief, when I know a number who work in the CBD. A few have had nasty experiences, like being trapped in a lift.
I was on the university campus when it happened, eating lunch with some friends in our break room. The earthquake hit, someone said "holy cow", and we all dived under tables or doorways. This is strange, because this is literally the first time I've ever got under anything in the progression of big earthquakes since September 2010. It is also the first time I've actually felt in any danger, in the buildings I have happened to be in. As I sat under the doorway I could see cracks appearing in the hallways before my eyes and the whole building rumbled and creaked, five floors of concrete above us on the second storey.
We got out as soon as it stopped - this means, unfortunately, that my wallet, computer and so on are still sitting in my office, although fortunately I have my keys and my cellphone - and assembled in one of the carparks nearby. Just a few minutes later another big one hit, and this was strange, because normally the quakes are very difficult to feel outside. This one was quite different; I felt like I was standing on water, and had to brace myself against a car, which was rocking back and forth quite violently itself. If you looked up you could see all the buildings swaying. Very weird.
The scary part now was waiting to find out what was going to happen. It is impossible to have got through the last five months without learning what this kind of quake means for our city buildings, which have all been slowly weakened over time by aftershock after aftershock. It was also easy to imagine the possibilities to the people of the city, especially in the middle of a busy working day. The first rumour I heard was that the spire of the cathedral was gone. Then I heard about buses crushed by falling buildings and that was when I started to feel confirmed in my feeling that this was very very serious. The cellphone networks were very clogged, as were the roads, and I was getting text message after text message from family and friends, who obviously were not receiving my replies, so I walked home to use our landline.
It was so good to see my flatmates. Three of them were at home, quite shaken up but okay, and the other one got home soon after me. No power but we had a handy transistor radio our power company sent us in case of another major shake - thank you Meridian! My stereo fell off its shelf plus a bunch of books etc, but no broken glasses this time. I rang all my family in different cities, couldn't get through to my sister in Christchurch but other relatives had been in contact. She had been unable to get in touch with her husband and her kids, who were in their daycare, and so she walked from the hospital in the CBD all the way to the hospital on the outskirts of the city where her husband works - at 23 weeks pregnant. My grandmother was fine, cheerful as always - she is a trooper. My dad is out of town at the moment.
Soon after I got home, I was talking to my sister in Dunedin on the phone, and another big aftershock hit. Lucky her, she got to listen to me getting under the table and then suddenly realising that water was pouring through our roof. Turned out our chimney had just fallen down, breaking something on its way, and our bathroom and laundry was rapidly flooding. I feel quite proud of the fact that I rushed outside with my toolbox, found the mains, and turned off the water. Girl power! This did mean, however, that now we had neither water nor power.
So, we have evacuated to my father's house in another part of town. It has both water and power, although we're boiling all water just in case. We're not allowed to take showers or flush toilets or anything like that because the plumbing and sewerage infrastructure has just been so badly damaged. It is very nice to be able to watch TV, though, and go online to find out if friends are okay. I'm hoping to be able to get into my building at uni if they consider my need is urgent enough (i.e., I have no money), but I don't know if they'll let me. And who knows how long this could last?
Right now, Christchurch needs your prayers, and any other kind of help you can offer. There are lots of people working extremely hard to free people trapped in buildings, there are many other people homeless, and, as for myself and many others, it was impossible to sleep through the night with earthquake after earthquake rolling in. Exhaustion is inevitable, and we've all just had enough of this. We thought we had had the big one. Turns out we were in store for more. I don't want to think how long it's going to take to make things "normal"again. Certainly much longer than five months. But God is very good and can bring good things even out of something like this.