Christchurch earthquake: Hard times on Struggle Street

By Chris Barclay of NZPA

Tamara, 5, left and Rosemary, 3, Manulelena are living in the garage of their home in Aranuiwith mum, dad and four  other brothers and sisters following the earthquake. Photo / NZPA
Tamara, 5, left and Rosemary, 3, Manulelena are living in the garage of their home in Aranuiwith mum, dad and four other brothers and sisters following the earthquake. Photo / NZPA

Surrounded by her children in the garage of their Hampshire St home in the Christchurch suburb of Aranui, Mafutaga Manuleleua still feels unloved.

Even in the best of times this section of Christchurch's eastern suburbs encompasses "Struggle Street" - and the living has been made that much harder by last week's horrific earthquake.

Although the obliteration of the city's central business district - and the search for survivors in the tangled ruins of the Canterbury TV building - are enduring images of the tragedy, unglamorous Bexley, Dallington and Aranui also bore the brunt of the 6.3-magnitude jolt.

They may not have figured prominently in the death toll but surface flooding, liquefaction, shaking foundations, a lack of sanitation and psychological damage combine to make things particularly tough for residents like Mrs Manuleleua.

Hampshire St was a hive of activity today as roading contractors began clearing silt from the buckled tarmac.

Their efforts were applauded by the locals but the belated arrival of portable toilets remains an irritant.

"We've had WINZ (Work and Income) and the Red Cross coming every day to see people yet you couldn't go to the toilet,"' said community nurse Jenny Herring.

"I was piddling behind the garage. We felt very neglected in that area."

A mother of six, Mrs Manuleleua flagged down the toilet truck yesterday and begged the crew to position one of the 10 portaloos allocated to Hampshire St outside her front door.

Even then, for little Rosemary, aged three, relief was not immediate - she locked herself in the unfamiliar contraption before a tearful extrication.

Mrs Manuleleua said Rosemary had had sanitary issues since last week's quake. "I had to force her to go outside in a hole in the garden."

Rosemary and her siblings also refuse to set foot in their two-storey weatherboard state house - it has been cleared by builders but they prefer to bunk down in the garage.

"The kids want to get out of Christchurch," said mum, who hopes to relocate to Auckland if the Housing Corporation can arrange accommodation.

Until then day-to-day life is unforgiving.

While her taxi driver husband Laumoli sleeps off a night shift, Mrs Manuleleua breaks down as he laments the slow restoration of power, sewage and water to her neighbourhood.

"I need to be strong for my children but it's not easy," she said.

"The thing we need the most is water to get everything clean. We're feeling left out and I'm worried that after this everyone is going to get sick."

Until a shower shuttle arrived at Wainoni Park two days ago to ferry residents to the homes of Cantabrians with hot water, she had to trek west to Hornby with the children every two days for a communal bathe.

Community worker Cathy Irwin, an Aranui resident for 30 years, said it was not just her people that felt a million miles from Mayor Bob Parker's command centre at the Christchurch Art Gallery.

"You hear people in Avonside saying they're forgotten. It took a lot of days before you saw police and army. That makes you feel ignored.

"When the army arrived with a barbecue it's like 'Wow, there's someone here'."


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