Personal stories: Tales from the quake zone

By Amelia Wade, Jarrod Booker, Tracey Chatterton, Caroline King

A car sinks in water on Ferry Road after the two magnitude 6.0 and 5.5 earthquakes struck yesterday. Photo / Getty Images
A car sinks in water on Ferry Road after the two magnitude 6.0 and 5.5 earthquakes struck yesterday. Photo / Getty Images

RUNNING FOR LIFE

Locals ran for their lives as two-storey buildings at the intersection of Worcester St and Stanmore Rd - where a fish-shop owner and customer died in the February quake - tumbled during the earlier 5.5 magnitude shake yesterday.

Dozens gathered at the Linwood streets to view the damage when the magnitude 6 quake hit soon after, bouncing cars around on the road and sending terrified people scrambling for safety from further falling debris.

A tearful Selena Beecroft said she was about to start work at a bar across the intersection from the collapsing buildings when the first big shock hit.

"The building started shaking, and it starting falling, and it was horrible," she said. People around were "running, screaming, they were crying".

George Raharuhi had just come out of the same bar. "I heard this big bang and looked across and there it was ... I could hear all the glass [falling]. Everything was crumbling. Lucky there was no one in it," he said.

Gary Osborne watched from his gun shop directly across the road.

"We just heard a few creaks and groans and next minute the whole verandah just fell through. It's pretty unsettling. Why would you live in Christchurch? Things were starting to come back to normal, now it's back to square one again."

AN EMOTIONAL TOLL

Ann Bodkin, who was the last person pulled out alive from the rubble in the February 22 quake, after a 26-hour ordeal, said yesterday's quakes "certainly takes an emotional toll".

She was at home at Rolleston - just out of Christchurch - and heard some of the quakes coming before they hit.

"It certainly made us start thinking about whether we want to stay in Christchurch," Ms Bodkin said.

"I think there's a lot of people doing that [now]. Until now we have been saying 'it's going to get better and we'll ride out'."

'DO I DROP? DO I RUN?'

Christchurch roofer Tony Stuart was on the roof of a house in Riccarton taking down a chimney damaged in an earlier shake when the 5.5 magnitude earthquake hit at 1pm yesterday.

"I was on the roof with another man and we had one downstairs in the roof cavity. I thought the whole house was going to come down. It was spooky."

Mr Stuart said standing on the roof when the house began shaking was particularly scary because he did not know what to do.

"It was like standing up in a small boat in rough water and trying to keep your balance. You just had to brace yourself but there was nothing to hold on to and I thought 'What do I do? Do I drop? Do I run?' but I couldn't do that so I just had to ride it out."

He said the shake made people realise again how vulnerable the houses and buildings were in Christchurch.

"At the slightest tremble your heart misses a beat."

DEJA VU - AGAIN

It was deja vu for Christchurch East MP Lianne Dalziel. The Bexley resident drove home on flooded streets and pulled into a driveway covered in sludge from liquefaction yesterday. "I thought: 'It's all happening again'."

Ms Dalziel was in New Brighton when both big quakes struck and said people were wandering about in shock.

"A lot of people are feeling that it's just getting harder."

Many homes lost power and water while mud from liquefaction reappeared and pot holes reopened on eastern streets. "It's another setback."

She urged distressed and unnerved residents to "hang in there".

"It's hard knowing we can't do anything to stop this." She said it was crucial the Government moved quickly. "We need to know for our own sake if there are areas in the electorate that can't be rebuilt."

WATCHING IN HORROR

Reverend Peter Collier, of St John the Baptist in the CBD, watched in horror as buildings began crumbling around him. He went to his church, on Hereford St, after the initial 5.5 quake. Then the 6.0 quake hit.

"Buildings were falling into the street just like they did after the February earthquake. It was bad. It was a very good thing that the Red Zone was already clear."

His immediate worry was the aftershock would cause the same death and destruction as the February quake, which killed 181 people.

"As soon as you know you're okay, your first thought is that others won't be," he said. In the first tremor yesterday, two workers inside the church were injured. "The workers were hurt, and were taken to hospital with minor injuries," said Rev Collier. "It's very lucky, things could have been much worse."

FIRST DAY ON JOB

Yesterday's quakes were not what the new chief executive of the Canterbury Earthquake Rebuilding Authority, Roger Sutton, expected on his first day.

Mr Sutton had barely put his feet under the desk when he had more to worry about. He said the council and Cera had coped well under pressure. "We always said there was a chance of another proper shock. I think it's pretty impressive how people worked through the plans."

A further 50 buildings in the CBD might have to demolished, but Mr Sutton said the shocks might actually speed up demolition in the city.

The Grand Chancellor Hotel was now on more of a lean and was extremely dangerous to be in, he said.

The CBD will stay closed for 24 hours while the damage is assessed. IT BRINGS IT ALL BACKA February earthquake survivor has described how the terror returned yesterday when she and fellow Canterbury Television (CTV) workers rushed to safety amid the severe aftershocks.

CTV receptionist Mary Anne Jackson got out with only seconds to spare when the former CTV building collapsed on February 22 - killing 16 of her colleagues - and she instinctively scrambled outside from behind her desk at the new offices yesterday.

While the new CTV offices held up to the shakes, she said she would not be sleeping last night.

"It just reminded me exactly of February," she told the Herald.

"I just feel shell-shocked really, devastated. It brings it all back. We all got outside and we gave each other a group hug. We all feel it. A couple were in tears because it just brings back all those memories."

Ms Jackson said she was, ironically, on the phone to a lawyer for quake victims' families when the magnitude 6 quake struck.

Her daughter was in a cafe across town and was thrown to the ground by the quake.

Her home in the suburb of Redcliffs, damaged in the February quake, was left in a shambles yesterday as her possessions were thrown about.

"I had just cleaned up the house and now it's a mess again."

Her brother's home in Lyttelton, where she had been staying, was also badly hit in yesterday's quakes.

INQUEST INTERRUPTED

When the quakes hit yesterday, families of victims who died in the February quake were attending an inquest into the deaths at a multi-storey city function centre in Riccarton.

When the magnitude 6 quake hit, inquest spokesman Steve Corbett said the family members had only just sat down for an afternoon session and had to quickly get out of the building.

"Everyone knew what to do."

One of the family members said of the aftershocks: "They are terrible reminders".

BACK TO SQUARE ONE

Avondale resident Leanne Lucas had only just finished cleaning up from the last quake when yesterday's earthquake hit Christchurch.

Now she's back at square one - her Avondale Rd home surrounded by sludge from liquefaction.

It is the third time the street has been filled with the muck. "It's pretty flooded. It's just the same as last time."

Her garage was also flooded.

"We've just finished cleaning up from February. There's only so much you can take. This time we've had enough," she said. "I left my garage open, the stuff can float away, who cares? There's nothing we can do about it." Ms Lucas said she was not even shaken by yesterday's quakes.

She had just arrived home and switched on the television after the first quake when the second one struck.

Ms Lucas said all she thought was: "Bugger, oh damn once again".

She was left without power and water, something she was now used to.

Luckily she had a generator to power the lights and television. Ms Lucas said she still wanted to stay in the area, despite problems with liquefaction.

- reports by Jarrod Booker and Amelia Wade, the Christchurch Star's Tracey Chatterton and Caroline King and NZPA

- NZ Herald

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