Kaikoura evacuee Ineke Chapman describes Monday's earthquake as "the longest two minutes and 20 seconds" of her life.

The Christchurch teacher and her husband Andy were trapped at their Mangamaunu Bay bach, 15km north of Kaikoura, for two days after the initial quake

. Now back at their New Brighton home and starting to feel like she's returning to normal, Ineke Chapman says the ordeal left her "sleep-deprived but adrenalin-fuelled" and suffering "quake-brain".

"The earthquake and the thousands of aftershocks take their toll. You are a little more jumpy with sudden noises. Slamming doors or the rumble of a large truck passing the house can elevate those adrenalin levels all over again."

Advertisement

She said her dog Millie was growling and barking frantically moments before the first quake struck.

"Before we could calm her down, the house was being jolted from side to side, shaking and swaying, building in intensity. It literally felt like the house was trying to throw us out. The noise was indescribable: crashing noises from falling mirrors, kitchenware, furniture falling, bookcases flung to the ground, drawers flung open and emptied, toilet cisterns sloshing all over the floor. It just went on and on."

Ineke and Andy Chapman returned to their bach to find furniture tipped up and belongings strewn across the floor. Photo / Ineke Chapman
Ineke and Andy Chapman returned to their bach to find furniture tipped up and belongings strewn across the floor. Photo / Ineke Chapman

Disorientated, Ineke and Andy Chapman groped in the dark for footwear and clothes, calling for Millie, and made their way outside. They and their neighbours fled in their cars up the hill and away from the coast.

"'When it's strong and long, best be gone', is our tsunami mantra, which we have ingrained in our kids as well."

Their escape was hampered by electronic gates that had warped and were not working, so they ditched the car and hiked up the road, trying to keep calm yet wary of slips and slumps down the hillside.

Three or four families from the bay had gathered and huddled together for warmth, trying to make sense of the continued aftershocks, keeping the dogs calm and hoping to get a cellphone signal to find out what was going on.

Down in the bay they could see exposed rocks and a reef they had never seen before.

"We assumed this was the water being sucked out of the bay. Little did we know that the sea-bed had actually lifted over a metre in places."

Five adults and a dog crammed into a car, they tried to get some rest.

"It was a long wait 'til daylight. The car rocked and swayed with every aftershock, but at least it was without the noise of the house falling apart," Ineke Chapman says.

In the morning they made their way down the hill to take stock of the damage, not expecting to see the house still standing.

"But there it was, and from the outside all looked well.

"Closer inspection of the garden showed smashed pots, garden tools flung awry. Inside was a mess - sauce, wine, spices, milk, vinegar, pickles made a pretty strong cocktail on the floor, along with all the broken glass and crockery. Not having power or water made the clean-up nigh impossible."

Smashed sauce and wine bottles, spices, milk and vinegar made a strong cocktail on the floor of Ineke Chapman's kitchen. Photo / Ineke Chapman
Smashed sauce and wine bottles, spices, milk and vinegar made a strong cocktail on the floor of Ineke Chapman's kitchen. Photo / Ineke Chapman

By the end of the day they had managed to get water out of their tank, and were cooking the most perishable foods while they waited for rescue.

"Crayfish and paua with champagne for breakfast? Not a bad way to compensate for what we'd been through," Chapman jokes, adding: "Sad to say, that was the last of the wine - all the other bottles smashed and broken, along with all but one wine glass! Was God trying to tell us something?"

Aftershocks continued on Monday and Ineke and Andy tried to get out of the bay in her 4WD, edging past a rockfall blocking the road by driving at a precarious angle alongside the railway track embankment.

Roads around Mangamaunu Bay were cracked and damaged after the earthquake. Photo / Ineke Chapman
Roads around Mangamaunu Bay were cracked and damaged after the earthquake. Photo / Ineke Chapman

Bridge approaches had collapsed, there were cracks in the road, water mains in town burst, telephone and power lines down, campervans were stuck on soft grassy verges, she said. But they were blocked in by slips.

The couple spent that night in their car in the hills.

"When choppers started flying up and down the coast, one after another, we knew things were pretty serious. The choppers flying low over our beach house did nothing to alleviate our dog's stress levels, that's for sure!"

The couple, and Millie, were finally evacuated by a friend who landed his helicopter on the beach in front of their bach.

"Our evacuation by chopper was the most amazing moment for us, even though it was hard leaving the bay residents behind. We felt so guilty that we were getting out and they still had to cope with outside living. The crayfish were running out, and you could only gather so many paua off the rocks."

But the flight back to Christchurch was heartbreaking for the Cantabrians, who had had very little news about the scale of the disaster.

The water off Kaikoura is badly discoloured after the quake. Photo / Ineke Chapman
The water off Kaikoura is badly discoloured after the quake. Photo / Ineke Chapman

"Flying over the coastline and seeing the massive slips and rockfalls onto the road, the displaced railway tracks and damaged roads was an eye-opener, even though we had seen the two landslips in our own bay that had trapped us.

"Seeing the lights of Christchurch in the distance was an almost surreal moment. Touching down on home turf was such a relief and getting home to the family and letting everyone know we were safe was amazing."

The couple plan to recover at home for a few days and hope that once the inland road to Kaikoura is open they can return to retrieve Ineke's car and continue with the clean up.