Wellington Earthquakes

We had a biggish earthquake in my town a couple of days ago. No surprises really, as my town happens to be Wellington, in New Zealand. For those that don’t know, New Zealand is basically made from earthquakes, and it’s still evolving – quite a lot to do with being right on top of two of earth’s tectonic plates that just happen to be moving around a bit, the Pacific Plate and the Australian Plate. (I do wish those two could get along better).

The quake was 6.5, located nearby in the Cook Strait, at a depth of 13km. I grew up here, and as a result have been in more earthquakes than I can count, however I have to say that this was the biggest I’ve experienced, and it was pretty scary. Anything up to a 5, and I’m able to be fairly blasé about it, however I have now discovered that a 6.5 is a bridge too far. I was scared, alarmed and generally unsettled. The unsettled part of course not being helped by the multitude of aftershocks that occur after a largeish quake.

We’d actually had a 5-point-something on Friday, to get everyone sitting up and taking notice, then a round of aftershocks, then a 5-point-something-a-bit-more on Sunday morning, a few more aftershocks, then the 6.5 at 5.09 on Sunday evening. So by then, one’s nerves were more than a little taut.

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The data on the tables is from the excellent GeoNet website, which many New Zealander’s have bookmarked, and some of us have their App as well, for up-to-the-second information about the latest quake. You might think it’s too much information, and you may be right, but when there’s a swarm of earthquakes in town, you kind of want to know what’s going on, or more accurately, what just happened.

I have a new appreciation of what it feels like for the Christchurch folk, and only a faint glimmer of what it must have been like for the poor people in Japan who had that hideous 9 earthquake in 2011. The slightest movement, and I find I’m reacting  – a slammed door, a truck going by, a burst of wind – anything and everything makes me twitchy, as every noise and bump needs to be assessed, just in case its something else this way coming. Even my own heartbeat can do it. (Of course, that might just be the palpitations I’ve had for years, but you never know…)

I’m very pleased to say that my town came through it remarkably well – mostly superficial damage, and only a few minor injuries. The Civil Defense and Emergency Services response and messages seemed clear and quick, and we’re open for business again today. Of course we could all have done without the news media banging on about “The Big One” – a reference to the fact that a major faultline runs right through the Wellington region. The current swarm of quakes was not on this faultline, but you get the feeling the media almost wished it was.

The talk in the office was all about how everyone was, and the various states of preparedness; we are all meant to have earthquake kits at home and at work in case we have to high-tail it out of wherever we are. Sound advice of course, and this morning at work we all changed the water in the water bottles in our earthquake kits, while comparing notes on various supplies we had or needed. I talked about the fact that I had ordered online a wind-up, solar powered torch/radio/mobile phone charger and a first aid kit; both items I had been meaning to buy for ages. There’s nothing like an earthquake for a bit of motivation.

So, I have my “grab and go” bag by the door of my home, my phones and other devices are fully charged, I’ve put away things at home that might fall down and I’ve got some clothes near my bed ready to jump into if necessary (I don’t want to be roaming the streets in my pyjamas).

Is that the wind, or an earthquake rumble…?


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