Thursday, 24 February 2011

Bonus Post: report from the ground in Christchurch

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

Many of the dear readers who live in New Zealand or have friends or relatives there have left moving comments on the blog this week. If I did not have a blog, I would know none of this, only the more impersonal reports that I read in the news. It does prove to me that blogging is an extraordinary medium, in that it can make an intimate community of strangers from all parts of the world. That is one of the most remarkable things about it.

Michelle Trusttum has her own blog here. But she left some extraordinary, immediate and incredibly touching comments on my blog, which she has given me kind permission to reproduce. It sounds beside the point, when there is devastation and loss of life, but one of the things that most struck me, when I got over the initial shock of her descriptions, is how well-written they are. They have all the vivid simplicity which I urge my students to strive for, when I teach my annual writing workshop. Most of all, they take a big news story, and make it human. The first one is a story of fear and sorrow and shock, while the second has a lovely ray of hope.

From the 23rd February:

Tania - we are forever changed here in Christchurch. It is devastating - so much worse than the Sept 2010 earthquake of 7.1 magnitude. The CBD is unrecognisable - bodies are lying in the streets, under rubble and in crushed cars. And still the aftershocks come - relentless, frightening, unbearable.

It took my husband more than two hours to drive the five minutes between his office and our girls' school. He is out now, driving with the last precious petrol reserves looking for water. We have no water, no waste systems, but power - thankfully - the internet. We have no money. You can't use ATMs - you can't get cash - systems are down - his salary did not go through. Our garden is under sand and silt - liquefaction - thrown up by the force of the quake.

Our contents are strewn throughout the house - so much broken glass. And we are the lucky ones. Wooden houses flex and move and groan with the quakes. And our 100 year-old house is hanging in there.

The children are terrified and aftershocks saw them screaming through the night - almost hourly. The dog is crazed with fear. We want to get out, but we can't mobilise resources yet.

The stories of loss of life are heartbreaking. And the air force helicopters are continuously overhead - ferrying trauma patients out.

Buildings continue to fall.

It is desperately, desperately sad.

God... Another massive aftershock...I think one of our chimneys just collapsed.


From 24th February:

Tania - thank you (and your readers) for your kind words and thoughts.

The sun is shining in Christchurch today and heartening signs are everywhere in the suburbs. I saw a home-made poster at one person's gate: We have water. Please come in.

And elsewhere, another sign leaning up against a small table in someone's driveway with an extension cord and power-board: Charge your cell phones here.

Four young men were driving around towing a trailer-load of wheelbarrows and shovels, offering help to complete strangers - pitching in where needed.

For the vast majority of us who have come through unscathed, the little things will get us through.


  1. Wow. Amazingly powerful words. Thank you so much for sharing this. My thoughts continue to go out to all the people impacted by this tragedy.

  2.'s always the small things at the end. Hang in there!

  3. That comment was so immediate and terrifying but the follow on words, show the kindness of people and thier attempts at normalcy and it is truly heartwarming

  4. Unbeleivable. So heartening about the boys and their wheelbarrows and the selflessness of strangers in times of strife.

  5. This is so familiar to me. First the horror, then the hope. Just exactly like the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Your correspondent is skilled at cutting to the heart of the matter, clearly and beautifully spoken.

  6. Was just speaking to my mother in Auckland and admitted that I have had a dull sense of guilt since the earthquake. A horrible guilt, feeling completely useless sitting in Los Angeles.
    There's still hope that the missing will still be found, I believe in miracles, I think you have to.
    There are beautiful stories starting to come out of this tragedy - couples getting married, friends for life because they were trapped together.
    I'll never forget this and will continue to think of everybody who's still missing and say prayers for those who have lost their lives.


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