It’s summer, yet I’ve got a polar fleece jacket on. I feel so cold. The images on telly have been bloodcurdling. So much devastation in our usually peaceful, placid city. 75 confirmed dead. 300 missing. Heritage buildings, shops, buses, streets, people all crushed by the hammer-fisted bow of nature that was the 6.3 magnitude quake.
Yesterday, at 11:30 a.m., Charis and I left the Women’s Centre on Manchester Street and headed for our car. Normally, we hang around and shop or have lunch at a local Food Court. But, I said to Charis, “I don’t feel like staying in town today. I want to get out. ” I was meeting a friend for lunch and, just the day before, changed my mind about meeting her in the city centre. I asked if we could meet at McCafe in Merivale, just 2 minutes walk to the Nurse Maude Hospice where her 2 pm training would take place. I dropped Charis off at Iain’s workplace on Manchester, and drove out to a local suburb.
Trish and I had just finished our lunch and were nursing our coffees, when the ground started swaying. It began gradually…gently enough for us not to panic. It was like that gradual cruise into position that you experience when you ride the Space Mountain roller coaster at Disney World. It starts off slow and even, and then suddenly it plummets and your stomach is left somewhere in mid-air. It felt like an angry giant violently shaking a dish of water with us in it. I immediately crawled under the table and called out to the Lord to save us. The restaurant was full and everyone was screaming.
I was praying desperately for Iain and Charis who were both still in town, on badly-hit Manchester Street. Iain works beside a large window, and I was terrified that both he and Charis would be harmed if the glass shattered. Plus, Charis was supposed to catch the bus home after lunch. I heard that two buses had been crushed by fallen debris/masonry. I was petrified and started to cry. I felt so helpless! Praise God I was able to reach Iain by cellphone. He reassured me that they were well, although his building had been badly damaged. The second-storey ceiling had caved in; huge glass doors had been shattered; and, the parking lot had buckled. He didn’t even bother to hang around to get his things. He just grabbed Charis and they headed out immediately!
Meanwhile, after everyone was escorted out of McCafe, Trish and I walked to Nurse Maude hospice to find out if her training course was still on. On the short walk there, we spied a fallen chimney that had toppled into someone’s bedroom. The ceiling and pink batts jutted like broken limbs into the room. Water and mud (silt) started oozing out of the ground, creating immediate flooding. When we got to the hospice, a man, obviously shaken, just stepped out of the old McDougall home which was the hospice office. As we stood talking with him, a violent aftershock occurred and bits of plaster started to shower down behind him. Suddenly there were shouts of “Nurse! Nurse!” Trish took off running, declaring herself a nurse. A person had collapsed, hitting his head on the pavement, his neck at an awkward angle. He was bleeding and in need of urgent assistance.
Car and house alarms burst into action. Police cars, with alarms blaring, zinged into town. The sudden aftershock caused a motor accident a few metres away from us. I thought, “It’s time to go home”. Throughout this time, though, I had an unearthly sense of peace and reassurance that our home was safe. I just kept on praying for my family.
Iain and Charis met up with me at McCafe’s car park, and we convoyed home. A steady trail of cars snaked along the roads…parents desperate to collect their children from school…families anxious for loved ones. It was just after 1 pm. Waiting to swing into the traffic, my car started shaking from side to side. It’s very hard to keep your concentration when you are so terrified, and you need to make sure you drive carefully so as not to cause an accident or be part of one. I felt like Jesus was telling me, “Keep your eyes on me, Cori. Keep your eyes on Me.”
We finally got home and were grateful that all of the building and bracing work we got done in the house after the Sept. 4 earthquake held up. Thank God!!! Everyone here jokes that Christchurch is so flat. It sits on a plain, therefore, hillside locations are highly prized for their views and are consequently very expensive. But today, huge boulders tumbled down from a cliff in Sumner and crashed down to the road. Roads all around the city buckled, and traveling through them, is like entering the nursey song: The wheels on the bus go up and down,up and down, up and down. See what I mean here: http://www.watoday.com.au/photogallery/world/earthquake-strikes-christchurch/20110222-1b3a5.html?selectedImage=0 Some cracks are big enough to for cars and vans to fall through. This site has pretty comprehensive photos: http://www.watoday.com.au/photogallery/world/earthquake-strikes-christchurch/20110222-1b3a5.html?selectedImage=0
We thank God that we have water and power in our part of the city, but the Eastern suburbs and much of the central city is going without. Please pray for the survivors who are still trapped in fallen buildings. Please pray for the search and rescue teams who have toiled all night in the rain, and throughout all the aftershocks which continue to wreak havoc on already unstable buildings. Our city is receiving help from Search and Rescue teams from the USA, UK, Australia, Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan. God BLESS them! The army is helping St. John’s Ambulance crew who can’t get through the liquefaction-stricken streets. (Parts of Chch are built on a swamp and some suburbs are built on reclaimed land. Find out more about liquefaction here. : http://www.ce.washington.edu/~liquefaction/html/what/what1.html)
This earthquake felt far worse than the 7.1 magnitude quake last September. It was because it was at a depth of only 5 kms. with the epicentre only 20 minutes away from the city centre. It is eerily quiet today, Wednesday. The aftershocks keep us in a nerve-wracking state of hyper-vigilance. No one can relax. Even as we watch the news stories unfold on TV, I can feel the earth rumbling beneath my slippers. It feels like a belly rumbling with hunger or like water on the boil. We dive under the dining table at the first tremor. Everyone’s nerves are shattered because no one knows when the other shoe will drop, and when another HUGE destructive fist will descend on the city. People can’t sleep in nervous anticipation. I didn’t even want to get into my jammies last night in case we needed to make a fast escape. We all prayed and worked out an escape plan, arranging to have our important papers close by in case we need to flee.
I cannot help but thank God for His protection. Had I met up with Trish in the city centre, we would definitely have been in the midst of the devastation. The parking garage I would have parked in looked like this after the quake: http://www.watoday.com.au/photogallery/world/earthquake-strikes-christchurch/20110222-1b3a5.html?selectedImage=0 I thank God that Iain and Charis were not harmed and that they were able to get out of devastated Manchester Street, even if it meant plowing through floods of silt in crawling traffic.
The authorities are urging people to stay home, so we can’t even volunteer to help out at a rescue centre until they say so. They don’t want a lot of cars on the road or people rubber-necking, I think.
Please continue to pray for the people of Christchurch, especially for those who are trapped in fallen buildings, those who are working to rescue them, and those who are grieving the loss of loved ones and/or property. Now, and at the end of the day, we are all in God’s hands and we thank God that when the day comes that we close our eyes here, we will open them again in Heaven, thanks to the loving, generous, saving work of Jesus. To Him be all praise!