Post-quake lifestyle full of emotional stress

By Paul Harper

Emergency service staff hunting for survivors amongst the rubble of the CTV Building. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Emergency service staff hunting for survivors amongst the rubble of the CTV Building. Photo / Mark Mitchell

Many Christchurch residents displaced by the earthquakes remain too scared to go about their daily activities, a University of Canterbury researcher says.

University arts intern Shihana Shahabdeen is documenting the experiences of residents from red-zoned suburbs, including Bexley, Dallington, and Horseshoe Lake, before they disperse.

"They are mostly frustrated with being split up from their community and having to leave everything behind to start afresh elsewhere in the city. It's the idea behind adjusting to a new lifestyle post-quake that is most difficult for them to cope with," Ms Shahabdeen said.

"These residents have spent most of their lives residing in their suburbs and having to watch their house being demolished and being told to leave has only added to their list of post-quake worries.

"Leaving their homes and community has taken a profound toll on these red zone residents. Most of their homes are fairly brand new, and having to leave them is very upsetting.

"Bexley and Dallington, in particular, are very tight-knit communities, and the residents are extremely saddened at the prospect of being separated from one another. But being given another chance to live life to the fullest is something they aren't complaining about."

Ms Shahabdeen said having to leave communities, which had gelled as one to support one another during times of need following the quakes, had a significant effect on residents.

"As most of them are quite elderly, they are quite sensitive in regards to their home and community. They feel very emotionally connected to the people and the place and having to leave their homes have broken many of the connections formed.

"The earthquakes have physically limited the residents to continue with some of their hobbies. Many feel that they are too scared to go about their daily activities post-earthquake period. Some have even told me that they can't progress with their hobbies such as painting.

"This was because of the emotional stress that the quake had created. Many residents have physically restricted themselves to the own property where they felt more secure."

Ms Shahabdeen said many voiced anger and disappointment with their dealings with CERA, EQC, the insurers, the city council and the government.

"It's the slow, dragging and on-going saga with the insurers and EQC that have really got fire steaming out of their nostrils. They are facing on-going, never-ending phone calls to the insurance companies which have lasted months, if not years."

The residents' stories and photos will be stored with the UC earthquake digital archive in coordination with the National Library in Wellington, while an exhibition of their stories is planned for next year.

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