Christchurch earthquake: Playhouse becomes shelter for family

By Nicholas Jones

The Bruin family - from left, Richard, Sonia, Georgia, 11, and Charlotte, 7 - feel it's not a bad thing to be living in such close quarters under the circumstances. Photo / Mark Mitchell
The Bruin family - from left, Richard, Sonia, Georgia, 11, and Charlotte, 7 - feel it's not a bad thing to be living in such close quarters under the circumstances. Photo / Mark Mitchell

A Christchurch family of four had to sleep in their backyard playhouse after their house was badly damaged in the earthquake.

The Bruin family grabbed mattresses and sleeping bags and bedded down for three nights in the playhouse after half the roof of their Redcliffs house was shaken off in the earthquake.

"We had a tent put up, but we gave it to some friends up the road because their house was not good and they had nowhere to sleep that night," Richard Bruin told the Herald yesterday.

"And then we moved into the playhouse. But it's safe, it's waterproof - unlike the house." It's a brilliant wee one."

Mr Bruin is more than 180cm tall, but could comfortably stretch out in the playhouse, which is similar in size to a four-person tent.

Under the circumstances, being so close together was not a bad thing, he said, especially with the aftershocks.

"It's funny, after the September quake we said to the kids that if anything were to happen in the future we could always kip down in there."

When the earthquake struck Mr Bruin was at home meeting an EQC inspector and a builder for the first time since the September earthquake, in which his house suffered minor damage.

"The ridging broke and the roofing tiles started going off with the shaking. We managed to get out, and the builder was out on our deck trying to hang on. It was pretty terrifying stuff."

"Between the three of us we got around and checked the neighbours. Got one of the neighbours ... she had bolted through the back of her house. So we finally found her, she was in tears."

Mr Bruin's wife Sonia escaped unharmed from her nearby workplace, as did his daughters Georgia, 11, and Charlotte, 7, despite a rock fall at their Redcliffs school.

"They were out in the fields playing, and there's just this massive boom of the rock fall, and then all the dust ... thousands of tonnes of rubble went down as the kids were having their lunch."

Two of the properties next to Mr Bruin's came off their foundations, damage which he said was typical in the area.

"Be assured there's a lot of people worse off than us ... people in the street, their houses are really buggered. They've had to walk away from it and go and stay with friends. It's pretty devastating."

He said that despite the difficulties the neighbourhood was rallying around each other to offer support.

"Everyone is helping each other out along the street. Making sure everyone is okay, and getting blankets and just keeping together. Pets were running around, so I grabbed a few and tied them up to one of our cars until the owners got home.

"We dug a hole like everyone else on Tuesday. So it's back to the old days of longdrops really."

With no power and so no radio or TV, the full extent of the earthquake became apparent to the family only when they visited friends across town on Thursday night.

"We saw the news and we were gobsmacked at the destruction in town ... we got off well compared to if you were in town walking down the street."

Despite the usefulness of the playhouse, Mr Bruin planned to take his family to stay at his sister's farm in central Canterbury last night.

- NZ Herald

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