Kurt Bayer is a Herald reporter based in Christchurch

Lucky escape for mum and kids after earthquake causes landslide

A mum and her two young children had a lucky escape last night after narrowly missing a landslide, watching debris and dust come down in her car's rear vision mirror.

The woman, who does not want to be named, was driving along a farm track to her Scargill farmhouse when the severe magnitude-5.7 earthquake struck.

Geonet says it happened 20kms southeast of Culverden, putting it right beneath Scargill and the Greta Valley.

The mum says she noticed a rock on a track as she drove and thought a small aftershock might have dislodged it.

But then the back wheels of her 4WD began to slide and she feared the worst.

She quickly accelerated hard to get past a high cliff-side.

When she glanced in her rear vision mirror she saw the dust and debris of a landslide.

"We're okay... but it was a bit too close really," she said today.

Her house has now been red-stickered after rockfall fears.

Two large boulders and many rocks high on a hill behind have been dislodged and could roll down onto their property.

In last night's violent shaking, a large rock 50cm across was dislodged and rolled down the hill, demolishing a dog kennel beside the house.

A Scargill family's home has been abandoned after a dislodged boulder rolled through their dog kennel and now they fear more boulders could destroy their house. Photo / Kurt Bayer
A Scargill family's home has been abandoned after a dislodged boulder rolled through their dog kennel and now they fear more boulders could destroy their house. Photo / Kurt Bayer

The family spent last night at another house on the large farm property.

The quake sounded like "a bomb going off", the woman's partner said.

"It was way worse than anything I've ever felt before," he said.

With the boulders teetering above them, the decision to leave the house was an easy one.

"It's just the what ifs," he said.

"We have another place we can stay at, so we're okay."

The tiny North Canterbury township of Scargill took the brunt of the jolt, which left broken chimneys and collapsed or cracked walls. Some houses may be write-offs.

A historic limestone homestead is feared damaged beyond repair.

The community hall at Scargill has lost an outside wall and been fenced off.

An exterior wall of Scargill's community hall collapsed in last night's severe aftershock. Photo / Kurt Bayer
An exterior wall of Scargill's community hall collapsed in last night's severe aftershock. Photo / Kurt Bayer

Scargill carpenter David Blackler and his family spent a sleepless night in their cars after the shaking knocked tiles off their house and sent furniture and household goods flying.

An 80-pound (36kg) anvil in his garage was knocked over, as was a large lathe machine.

This morning, there was an eerie silence across the valley.

Even Blackler's five roosters were strangely muted.

"The animals are all spooked," he said.

Today, workmates came from Christchurch with scaffolding and tarpaulins to make the place wind and water tight.

"We'd just cleaned up from the last [quake] and now this," he said.

"But we're lucky - it's all repairable."

Bryn Davies, 64, slept in the back of his Ford Falcon stationwagon after the quake ripped through his Scargill home.

Bryn Davies spent the night in his car after last night's aftershock ripped through his Scargill home. Photo / Kurt Bayer
Bryn Davies spent the night in his car after last night's aftershock ripped through his Scargill home. Photo / Kurt Bayer

He was outside when it hit. He gripped a car-port post and struggled to stay on his feet.

Today, he showed the Herald through his damaged home.

"Every room looks like a hand-grenade has gone off," he said.

Now, he wonders whether he should stay in shaky Canterbury.

"Yesterday has damaged me. I'm now a prickly ball of nerves."

His brick chimney is badly damaged, shelves emptied, furniture tipped over.

For 30 years, he had gone without a TV. But he bought one last week. Today, it sits broken on the floor among the other quake debris.

Alison and Darryl Lewis, and 3-year old Rebecca, were getting dinner ready when the quake struck.

They fled outside when a second wave of shaking knocked them off their feet.

Darryl and Alison Lewis with 3-year old Rebecca in their Scargill kitchen which they fled in the shaking in last night's earthquake. Photo / Kurt Bayer
Darryl and Alison Lewis with 3-year old Rebecca in their Scargill kitchen which they fled in the shaking in last night's earthquake. Photo / Kurt Bayer

"I've never felt anything as strong as that," Darryl said.

Alison said: "It was like an explosion going off."

The shaking ripped their log burner out of the wall.

The oven has shuffled 1m from the wall.

"The way the house was moving, I thought it would collapse," Darryl said.

"We have overall got off very lightly."

Up the road, Roly Regan surveys his damage.

He got home at midnight to find his home tipped upside down.

His chimney is broken and water tank balancing precariously at the back door.

In last Monday's magnitude 7.8, two jam jars fell over.

"This has been much, much worse for us here."

Lizzie Hay and her sons, McGregor, 3, Sam, 6, and Ben, 8, this morning pitched a tent to give them shelter from the hot day after their concrete Scargill home was badly rattled in the shake and suffered some cracking.

Lizzie Hay and her three sons, McGregor, 3, Sam, 6, and Ben, 8, this morning pitched a tent to give them shelter from the hot day. Photo / Kurt Bayer
Lizzie Hay and her three sons, McGregor, 3, Sam, 6, and Ben, 8, this morning pitched a tent to give them shelter from the hot day. Photo / Kurt Bayer

The Hay family spent last night in rented accommodation. They, along with many others in the district, are today waiting for building inspectors to check their homes.

Many are afraid to spend another night in their homes until experts give them clearance.
Others are worried about rockfall and damage to farm water pipes.

Meanwhile, a total fire ban across the quake-stricken Hurunui District came into force today.

The area has had a drought for more than two years.

Recent rain has greened up pastures, but this week the mercury is soaring and more nor'west winds will brown the land quickly, farmers fear.

Deputy principal fire officer Gary Millar said the fire ban is in place because the quakes have put a strain on personnel and equipment.

"We have our resources out helping with the quakes and could really do without fighting fires," he said.

- NZ Herald

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