Tim Stead - Fantasy Writer

Shaken, not Stirred - 26th April 2015

The big one (6.3) hits Christchurch - February 2011

I was sitting at me desk writing yesterday when the earth moved - again.

It's a while now since the two earthquakes that put Christchurch in the world's press, the first in the middle of the night and the second while we were on a rare visit to the city. Most people outside New Zealand will assume that it's all over, that life has gone back to normal, but of course it hasn't. Those who live in disaster affected areas will be familiar with this, probably on a much vaster scale than we are. I cannot imagine that Haiti, Bandah Aceh, or Fukushima will be back to normal for decades. The eye of the world moves on.

So yesterday it was a 6.2, just up the coast - maybe a couple of hundred km. The desk moved. The floor moved, and I sat there wondering if it was going to just fade away like so many aftershocks, or if it would build like those two destructive quakes that maimed the city.

It faded.

You can see the report here. Geonet is a site that most Kiwi's, especialy Cantabrians are now familiar with. The thousands of aftershocks, which still continue, have made quake watchers of us all.

In our local town the town hall closed after the second big one, the largest department store was declared unsafe, probably a couple of dozen buildings were demolished. There are still empty lots, nettles and other weeds sprouting from the rubble, but rebuilding is well under way. The town hall has been re-opened and is bigger and better with three digital cinemas, an auditorium and assorted other features. Other new buildings are under construction.

We were lucky, of course. Nobody was killed in our town, but even here it will be a decade before the shadow of the earthquake has gone. But now I watch the news with more sympathetic eyes. I see tornadoes in the USA, floods in Pakistan, volcanoes errupting, floods, storms, the whole gamut of natural disasters that wrack the world, and know that each presages hard times for those caught up in it.

There is always the claim that the recovery will boost GDP, that all the rebuilding brings jobs. But what has really happened is that wealth has been destroyed, and other wealth must be used to rebuild. Insurance companies have struggled to survive, taxes have risen along with insurance premiums. An earthquake is not a good thing.

And then this morning we hear news from Nepal.