Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Tales from the quakes

'They're countryfolk, they do soldier on'

Seddon's volunteer fire chief Kieron Hebberd was thrown against the wall of his mechanic's workshop when the big quake hit this afternoon.

The 43-year-old says the latest swarm of shakes are probably the worst the town, just south of Blenheim, has felt.

People had trouble standing during the 6.6-magnitude jolt which struck a few kilometres southeast of the town at 2.31pm.

"My computer flew off the bench and book shelves emptied," Mr Hebberd said.

"I reckon it went on for two to three minutes. They just seemed to keep on going."

Mr Seddon said local fire volunteers had visited every house to check people were okay.

"People were just everywhere on the street. There's houses that are falling down [and] roofs fallen down, chimneys fallen down," he said.

The Seddon church had been severely damaged in the quake, he said.

"It's like someone has put a foot through the roof. There's two or three big holes in it."

Parts of the road had also opened up, he said

"All our bridges have dropped."

One part of State Highway 1 had cracks large enough to "put your foot down to your knee" in it, Mr Hebberd said.

While emergency services had received a spate of medical calls, none were injuries suffered in the quake, he said.

"It's the stress of it."

Mr Hebberd said some spooked families had gone to Blenheim, where the tremors are less severe, for the night.

A Red Cross centre had been set up at the local school giving residents a safe place to go if they did not want to stay home.

"They're just sick of the earthquakes, but what can you do, you can't prevent it."

Seddon residents had made the most of their tight-knit community, supporting each other through the stress, he said.

"They're countryfolk, they do soldier on."

'It was very spooky'

Call it luck or a spooky coincidence, but staff and students at a Wellington primary school were ready and waiting for yesterday's big earthquake.

Clyde Quay School had planned an evacuation practice at 2.30pm yesterday, with parents and guardians told to get to the Mt Victoria school early to collect children.

The school's 240 students were crouched under their desks when the drill became the real thing.

Office manager Helen Burnet said: "We were still under the desks and the shake started. It was very spooky."

She said the students, from Year 1-8, mostly coped very well.

"A few were teary-eyed by the time their parents or designated caregivers picked them up. But otherwise, all was well."

Foodies freak out

Wellington's Shed 5 at Queen's Wharf lost dozens of bottles of wine and about a third of its glasswear after the quake struck.

On top of the damage, the restaurant will have to recoup its losses after several customers walked out after the shake without paying for their meals.

Front-of-house manager Ollie Carr said the eatery was almost full when the shaking started.

"Being on the wharf, it moves quite a lot. And a lot of people were quite freaked out ... damage to the kitchen is pretty bad. It's enough that we won't be able to open tonight.

"It'll be a while before we figure out what sort of value it'll be."

Customers ducked under the tables during the quake before staff ushered them outside and closed the restaurant.

"We gave the staff a bit of time outside to stop shaking, and anyone that wasn't feeling too good went home ... there's just a few of us left sweeping and hoping it doesn't happen again overnight."

Watching the wobble

Khandu Patel was at home with his 21-year-old son in Lower Hutt when the quake struck.

"We were watching the whole house just wobble. The lampshades were moving, the wind chimes were going." Mr Patel raced to a kitchen bench top.

"I hung on to it for dear life."

Seventh-floor jolt

Rick Depczynski, 45, a recruitment consultant, was on the seventh floor of Prime Property House on Lambton Quay.

"It was pretty horrible, the waiting. Then there was the big jolt. Our office was okay but a couple of offices had things fall over. It was pretty scary. Some of the ladies were obviously quite ... shattered."

Several members of Mr Depczynski's work colleagues leaped under their desks, he said.

"I didn't," he said through a nervous grin.

After the shaking stopped, he left the building and caught up with his 19-year-old daughter, Natalie, on nearby Willis St.

"It was so scary, I was all alone," Miss Depczynski said.

"Everyone around me was just freaking out."

Mr Depczynski said poor phone network connections meant he was initially unable to reach his wife, who was in Hutt Valley.

"We've spoken to each other (now) and she's fine," he said.

Rocking theatre

Herald writer and actor Elisabeth Easther was rehearsing a play at the Circa Theatre in Wellington.

"It's just very very frightening. The lights in the ceiling were swaying. The building ... just rolled and rocked and the lights were shaking and the signs were shaking - it was really really strong. Everyone who is in the inner city is trying to get out. You can just feel it, the fear in some people."

House 'upside down'

Seddon resident Jeanette Andreassend was grabbing a quick bite to eat at Blenheim McDonald's.

"Not good," she said. Customers had dived under tables but staff made sure everyone was safe before they were evacuated outside.

"Most people were visibly shaken."

Though uninjured, she returned home to find her house had suffered severe damage.

"My place is a bit of a mess at the moment. She's moved off the foundations. I've got broken windows and the whole place is turned upside down.

"The cupboards are open and everything's come flying out on to the floor. The fireplace is all twisted. She's a mess."

Her house was insured but she was still waiting to be assessed for last month's damage.

There were some very frightened children at the local school, Ms Andreassend said. Her own grandchildren were very scared.

"There's a lot of very distraught children. One or two of them have had real problems dealing with the quakes and get really upset with small ones - let alone one like that."

Scary drive home

Seddon man Rex Dodson, in his 70s, was on his way home from Blenheim when the first quake struck.

"It's not very nice travelling at about 100km when the big one hits. There were mud and rock slides all over the place."

Another motorist helped him move a large rock off the road so they could get passed.

Heading through Seddon there were emergency services on the road, people spilling into the street and cars stopped in their tracks, he said.

There were cracks in the road and on the bridge that crosses the Blind River.

Mr Dodson, a former New Zealand Army officer, put out some traffic cones to warn motorists to take the bridge slowly.

When he arrived at his Cable Station Rd home, he found his wooden villa more damaged than after last month's big quake with everything on the floor and the power out.

Mr Dodson put on his hard hat and went into his house to fetch medicine and essentials before joining wife Joan, who was "shaken up" in the caravan on their lawn where they would be spending the night.

"I get the feeling that a lot of this activity is basically directly under where we are," he said.

More damage this time

Ward resident Denis Burkhart was cowering in the doorway of his petrol station as he spoke on the phone, while the area continued to be rocked by aftershocks.

"There's a lot more damage than the last one a little while ago. It was pretty big. You can hear it coming, it's like a train coming down the tracks," he said.

"I haven't heard of any people being hurt but we can certainly understand what those poor people in Christchurch experienced. It's pretty scary stuff."

He said a third of a nearby house had broken off and there were numerous cracks in other buildings and roads. A bridge also appeared to have been badly damaged.

Mr Burkhart said the hot water cylinder in his house had blown and leaked water on to the floor.

"And at my brother's place next door, his swimming pool seems to have gone down 200mm or more. And I've got a big crack down the front of my place, not like the ones in Christchurch, but like spider web cracks."

Big jolt into action

Allan Scott Vineyard worker Carol Power didn't realise at first that the quake had hit.

"I didn't feel it straight away. I was walking around talking and my colleagues were standing in doorways and I said, 'what's wrong with you?'. Then I felt a good jolt and I certainly reacted fast."

Ms Power said there had been numerous aftershocks since the 6.2 quake.

"There's been some reasonably strong ones."

There was no major damage to the vineyard but there had been a bit of "spillage".

Shaking became violent

Seddon Vineyard manager Garrie Armstrong was on his vineyard when the quake struck.

Asked how the earthquake compared to last month's 6.5 magnitude tremor, he said: "A lot more severe. Obviously a lot shallower. It started off quite gentle and built in intensity. It was quite violent."

Mr Armstrong was not aware of any injuries but said there were reports of considerable damage around Seddon.

"Land slips and stock in supermarkets off the shelves. Broken windows, that sort of thing."

He was now at the local school waiting for parents to collect their children.

The pupils were "pretty good".

"They've been through a bit over the last month."

'Kapiti felt it bad'

Chef Ruth Pretty, 60, was packing up her icecream van when the quake hit.

"It was scary. It was a long rolling one. Everyone came out of the buildings.

"We did notice a lot of people leaving towards the train station. Everyone seems to be going home."

Her catering company was based in Kapiti and everyone had to evacuate the headquarters after the quake, she said.

"They felt it bad in Kapiti."


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