Saturday, February 26, 2011

Earthquake: Day 5

The last couple of days I have managed to get to work, I have two jobs, one is suspended till next Monday at least but my usual Wednesday and Friday job is very near the airport and I went there yesterday, and again this morning because I had some serious catching up to do (both for earthquake and non-earthquake related reasons).

I was a bit concerned about possible congestion on the roads, however it wasn't much of a problem. I couldn't take my usual route which goes through the cordoned-off area, instead I headed first west then north to avoid the central city. The first crush of traffic - people trying to get home - and the second crush - people trying to leave, or buy essential supplies and petrol - seemed to have settled down. And I found a different world out there - the further I got to the north-west, and away from the south-east, the more normal things looked. There was some damage - the occasional wall that had fallen down, even one or two chimneys - but basically, I saw very little difference from before. I had expected the newly painted walls at work to have cracks in them, but in fact everything seemed totally undamaged.

Yesterday morning, I felt very muddle-brained and inattentive, but by the afternoon I was beginning to calm down and feeling the benefits of focussing on the work rather than recent events. What's more, no shakes! When I arrived home, I was greeted by a large (4.4) shake just after I walked in the door. There were about six more in the next couple of hours. I asked "has it been like this all day here?" and was told yes, they had been feeling small shakes all day. It's about fifteen kilometres from my home to my work, and the difference it makes is amazing. Clearly, most of the aftershocks are centred close to Tueday's original shake, nearer to this side of town.

On the other side of town - the work side - shops are open as normal. Here, there is very little open. Presumably, even if undamaged, not being able to provide toilet facilities for your staff is a big problem for a business. I bought one or two items the first day. We haven't needed to panic buy, due to my husband's habit of stockpiling emergency supplies - now proven to be very worthwhile. This morning, with power back on, there was even a loaf of fresh bread baking in the breadmaker.

This morning I went back to work very early, the nature of the work means that other staff are there very early on a Saturday, and I don't have an office key, so I headed off to do a few catch-up hours about six a.m. when I knew the office would be open. My eldest daughter* couldn't sleep, and had some shopping she wanted to do, so she came along with me. While I worked, she wrote on her laptop, napped, and filled up water bottles. Over there, they have flushing toilets, and running water that, I am assured, comes from a different well from the city supply, and doesn't need to be boiled.

After I finished we headed towards home, stopping off for supplies on the way - pet food, fresh fruit and vegetables, and hardware supplies. In the hardware store it was quite clear what items were the best sellers - tarpaulins, ropes, water containers. I heard someone ask for hand sanitiser, but she was told they had sold out. D was looking for an electric kettle to replace one that had broken in the quake, she couldn't find one. So we went to another store - they didn't have any for sale, but did have one out the back that "we aren't using" - and gave it to her for nothing. We bought buckets, torches that charge by hand winding and therefore don't need batteries, and will also charge a cell phone - we hope not to need these, but they were quite cheap and it seemed a good idea to add them to the emergency kit. D bought dust masks which I hadn't thought of - but given the amount of sand and silt on the roads that is rapidly drying out, I think it was an excellent idea - we expect to be walking and biking quite a bit in the next few weeks, and it is going to get very dusty out there.

Among the fresh fruit I bought were some surprisingly cheap oranges - surprising that is until I noticed they were all a rather odd shape, slightly flattened - rather as if something heavy had fallen on them!

Again, no shakes that side of town, but we have felt plenty of small ones since we got back home.

According to the paper, around 800 Portaloos (portable toilets) have been distributed to areas of greatest priority. I'm not sure what that means - either you have water and sewage connected or you don't, so I can't help wondering what the criteria are. The only ones I have seen are at some council flats, which seems fair enough as there are a large number of elderly there, and no gardens to dig a hole in. My daughter's friend suggested that if there was raw sewage coming to the surface, those areas would be higher priority, which made sense to me. The problem is supply. In the September quake, all streets with no sewage received Portaloos within a few days - if not one per household, at least one for every few houses. Many of these areas still have them nearly six months later as their sewage is yet to be repaired - and is probably now a good deal worse. But now half the city is without water and sewage, and there are no more to be had in New Zealand, so 900 are being flown in from the United States. So, thanks to my American readers for sending us your toilets!

I'm not a person who is comfortable not knowing what is going on, I'd really like to know if we can expect to receive at least one for our street, and when. Supposedly there are a hundred teams going out from house to house checking on residents' needs and safety, including in our suburb, but we haven't seen anyone yet - the task is huge.

Today I decided to clean up a bit - in the upstairs hallway the bookshelf came down, and with it a large number of cactus plants in pots. I had picked up the bookshelf and put the first couple of rows of books back to make a clear path down the hall, but the other two rows were still on the floor, along with a lot of potting mix. So, I switched on the vacuum cleaner, it went for a moment or two, then stopped. It seems something happened to it when it fell over in the quake. My husband has taken it apart and cleaned it and fixed up a couple of things, whether it is working or not I will find out when he puts it back together again. Otherwise there are plenty of good neighbours who will lend me one, I'm sure.

*I have three adult daughters, and two sons. Mostly randomly referred to here as "my daughter" or "my son", since it doesn't usually matter which is which for the purposes of describing what it's like here. Two daughters and a son currently live at home, eldest daughter has her own house a few kilometres away (also damaged), but has been spending quite a bit of time here, and the other son is in a student flat near the university, and has power and water, and no damage at all.


Ruth said...

I bought two dynamo torch/radios after the September quake, and understood that they could be used to charge my cellphone. This week I got out all the little adaptors that came with the torches, and discovered that none of them had the right fitting for my phone. It might pay to check before you rely on this method of recharging. Luckily we had power restored on Friday and the phone hadn't run out before then.

Catherine said...

Thanks Ruth, I just checked and it fits my cellphone perfectly. The package says "recharges Nokia phones" and I knew my phone was a Nokia. But actually, I was more eager to have a torch that didn't rely on batteries, which can go flat in storage. Half the cellphone network was down anyway. My son texted us and it never got through.