I had an existing appointment that took me out of town for a couple of days. Goodness, it was a very eerie experience leaving CHCH.
I woke Sunday morning at some stupid hour to head to the airport. No-one was about, and there was next to no traffic. The night was still with only light cloud. Dusk was just starting to break, so for a short space in time, everything seemed very serene. The south side of town seemed just like any other day. Yet it remained difficult to try and comprehend what was happening elsewhere in town.
Heavy machinery would be rubbling through the night. It would be a long fifth & hungry night for many Cantabrians cut from essential utilities. Nerves would be torn, bodies smelly, and many a kid grizzly. Folk would be on edge as aftershocks continue to keep people from fully relaxing into deep sleep. Many families would simply be at their wits end waiting for news of loved ones yet to return home. So far we have managed a lot of facts and statistics. 82% restoration to power ulitilies, 145 confirmed fatalies, 20 nations represented in the combined media pack, the largest insurance event facing NZ ever, 1/3 of the central city buildings condemned…
While on the plane, the actual enormity of what has happened hit me. Perhaps it was some adrenaline wearing off, perhaps aided in part from reduced sleep. Nevertheless I couldn’t finish reading the paper. The stories, the plights of many, was too sobering. All of a sudden the human picture is starting to emerge. The face of the 5mth old baby killed who was delivered immediately after the Sept quake. The paramedic recalling his experience dealing with the multiple mass trauma. The visiting surgeon describing amputations by torchlight with a hacksaw deep in the PGC buidling. Acts of bravery by complete strangers and superhuman strength dragging the injured from Cashel Mall.
The human stories are indeed now prevailing. The tremendous offers of help by all manner of Kiwi’s just wanting to help in their own way. The hundreds of holiday homes about NZ up for evacuees, Telecom payphones opened up for free calling, Canterbury & Lincoln University student army mobilising in the thousands, farmers killing stock in order to do their bit to feed volunteers, pilots donating fly time to deliver it, neighbours helping neighbours, suburban backyard springs opened to the strangers for fresh clean water…
Yet also, news of missing ones and ruined homes has also spread. It doesn’t take many degrees of separation in CHCH to find heartbreak very nearby. It is this news that is the worst, especially knowing we are still only at an early stage. Thoughts are truly with those hit hard by this disaster.
Funny, as I flew back in last night I was thinking about how the city didn’t look that different at night, and was quite pretty with the amber glow of all the lights. Though as I surveyed the scene, I realised it was only 3/4 of the city. Tracing the coastline and hills as best I could in the darkness, the black patch that is Brighton / Bexley / Sumner was not initially obvious. The scale of the disaster hit again just like it did the day before as I sat comfortably on the aeroplane.
Mayor Bob Parker at the helm at a news briefing.
Avon Bridge, Kilmore St / Fitzgerald Ave.