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[Photo: The Press, Christchurch]
My thoughts go out to the people of my home town Christchurch and the province of Canterbury after the devastating 7.1 degree earthquake that hit the region on Saturday morning.
Amazingly, although up to 100,000 houses have been badly damaged and many business buildings in the central business district condemned, no-one died in the quake. That’s despite the fact that it was of similar severity to the Haiti earthquake last January, which killed up to 300,000 people and wiped out much of the capital Port-au-Prince.
The reasons for the lack of deaths were partly logical, partly luck. Christchurch has a relatively low population (400,000), and mainly low-rise, predominantly modern and well-built housing. Luck? The quake struck in the early hours of Saturday morning, around 04.30, when people were home rather than in office buildings.
Elie Maalouf, CEO of HMSHost, which runs food & beverage outlets at Christchurch International Airport, told me that the last few days had been a real experience for all his team. Earlier this week the domestic terminal was closed after cracks appeared in the building. Some flights were re-directed through the international terminal.
My own friends have recounted various harrowing tales. One couple close to me have had their house seriously damaged but in stoical Kiwi fashion told me yesterday: “The aftershocks have been more unsettling than the actual event as they are coming thick and fast and hard, especially today. There was a 5.1 this morning just as I was getting ready to go to work and that was a real humdinger. While I’ve been writing this, there was another one but short and sweet.
“The night ones are especially spooky, not knowing whether they are going to build to something more serious and you are always in a slight state of alert waiting for them. But anyway, we are all intact, unhurt and opening another bottle of something nice every night so don’t worry about us. There are a lot of people much worse off than us.”
Indeed there are. Notably the people of Haiti. But make no mistake, the people of Christchurch and Canterbury (Cantabrians) are having it rough. They are a tough lot but the effect not only of the original quake but well over 150 aftershocks have left nerves seriously frazzled. Let’s hope Mother Nature eases up on them soon. And let’s thank our various gods that no-one has been killed.