Masterton quake stirs past fears

By Emily Norman emily.norman@age.co.nz -
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Masterton's Jim and Sally Field still have the paperwork from the Earthquake Commission for their house in New Brighton, Christchurch. PHOTO/EMILY NORMAN
Masterton's Jim and Sally Field still have the paperwork from the Earthquake Commission for their house in New Brighton, Christchurch. PHOTO/EMILY NORMAN

A FLASHBACK to a terrifying time in her life hit Masterton's Sally Field when a 5.2 earthquake shook Wairarapa yesterday morning.

Sally and her husband Jim lived through the devastating Christchurch earthquakes and can not escape post-earthquake habits like carrying extra cash, stockpiling water, and leaving their petrol tank "at least half-full".

"I was in the shower during the first earthquake we had in Christchurch, and I was in the shower this morning when it happened here in Masterton," said Mrs Field. "I was like 'Oh, God, this is Christchurch all over again'."

Although Mrs Field said "it was nothing" compared to the major shakes she felt in Christchurch, it was "still a bit of a wake-up call for everybody".

"I remember the date of the second big earthquake in Christchurch because it was my daughter's birthday," she said. "I went to my daughter's place and the whole back of the two-storey flat had fallen off. That night, we slept in the back of my wagon.

"The ground just moved all night with the aftershocks, and it rained and it was cold. The next day, bridges were out, rivers were up, roads were cracked, there were cars bogged down in liquefaction.

"When I finally got home, our street was under water. It was devastating. You've got to go through it to believe it."

Yesterday's quake, which was located 15km west of Masterton and struck at a depth of 24km, was officially described as "strong" and disrupted commuter train services out of Wairarapa as it prompted checks on the district's rail bridges.

A Central Fire Communications spokesman confirmed there had been no fire calls or reports of damage.

Many Wairarapa people who felt the quake described it as a "booming" one which jolted many out of their beds at 7.41am.

It was followed by scores of light aftershocks, the largest measuring magnitude 3.4.

GeoNet seismologist John Ristau, whose wife felt it in their Upper Hutt home, said there were more than 3000 "felt" reports two hours after the quake from as far south as the top of the South Island, and north to Taranaki.

"This type of earthquake isn't one that would occur on a fault," he said. "Going by the depth of the earthquake and the style of motion it had, we call it a slab earthquake, and this earthquake occurred within the Pacific plate that is pushing beneath the North Island."

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