Cri­sis re­sponse: first­hand re­ports from Kaik­oura earth­quake aid work­ers

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

LORRAINE DIVER is the Kaik­oura Red Cross branch pres­i­dent. When the earth­quake hit, she set up a wel­fare cen­tre to de­liver aid to peo­ple in the town. When I started as the Red Cross Kaik­oura pres­i­dent, I wasn’t ex­pect­ing to be thrown in at the deep end this way, but Mother Na­ture had other plans for me and my team. It was only a cou­ple of months ago that we com­pleted our train­ing on how to set up a wel­fare cen­tre. Oh, the irony of it. The earth­quake was the most deaf­en­ing and ter­ri­fy­ing mo­ment of my life. At one point we hon­estly thought our house was go­ing to crum­ble and fall down around us. It was so vi­o­lent, my hus­band threw pil­lows over me and threw him­self over the pil­lows to shield me from the quake. It still brings me to tears. And then, as sud­denly as the earth­quake started, it stopped. It was like some­one had flicked a switch. We went from this vi­o­lent earth move­ment and the house sway­ing and ev­ery­thing fall­ing down around us to noth­ing. It was the eeri­est si­lence you can ever imag­ine. When the earth stopped shak­ing, my hus­band and I just looked at each other, gave each other a quick kiss, then threw our legs over the side of the bed and started get­ting ready. I’m Red Cross and my hus­band is Civil De­fence, so there was an un­der­stand­ing that both of us had to get to work. I took off up to our Red Cross shed, which is on the top of the hill on the Scar­bor­ough penin­sula, where I met my staff and we set up a wel­fare cen­tre. Then my daugh­ter and I spent the next three hours walk­ing be­tween the wel­fare cen­tre and the Civil De­fence Emer­gency Op­er­a­tions Cen­tre (EOC). Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions were down, elec­tric­ity was down, ev­ery­thing was down. The only way we could pass on in­for­ma­tion was by walk­ing back­wards and for­wards re­lay­ing in­for­ma­tion to the hun­dreds of peo­ple out on the streets. Once dawn came, we re­alised the huge num­ber of peo­ple that had gath­ered at the wel­fare cen­tre – we had peo­ple sleep­ing in the Red Cross shed, we had them sleep­ing out­side or sit­ting out­side with can­dles, blan­kets and hot drinks, and we set up a bar­be­cue to feed them. There were so many peo­ple need­ing help. I met a sin­gle mum and her three chil­dren walk­ing along the street and she was ab­so­lutely be­side her­self. Turns out her house had just been red-stick­ered and she wasn’t al­lowed back into her home to get any­thing for her chil­dren and her­self, not even the bare essen­tials. She had

When a 7.8 mag­ni­tude earth­quake struck Kaik­oura two min­utes af­ter mid­night on Novem­ber 14, two peo­ple were killed and there was wide­spread dev­as­ta­tion in Can­ter­bury and the lower North Is­land. Kaik­oura was cut off by road due to land­slides and there were tsunami warn­ings for the eastern coasts of the North and South Is­lands and the Chatham Is­lands. Thérèse Henkin speaks to three women who leapt into ac­tion when the earth­quake struck, work­ing tire­lessly to help those af­fected by the dis­as­ter.

nowhere to go. We took her down to the EOC and the wel­fare team found some­where to re­lo­cate her. But the im­age of her walk­ing down the street look­ing ab­so­lutely lost will al­ways stick with me. What’s sur­prised me the most, how­ever, is the re­silience of the com­mu­nity. I have lived here for 36 years and this ex­pe­ri­ence has blown me away. The sense of unity and the de­ter­mi­na­tion to not let the earth­quakes win is in­spir­ing. So many peo­ple wanted to help. On the day of the earth­quake, just as the sun was com­ing up, a won­der­ful cou­ple who own the lo­cal Four Square – Nick and Steph – brought their chil­dren up to the wel­fare cen­tre. Nick got talk­ing and agreed that my team and I could go with him to the Four Square build­ing, which had been se­verely dam­aged, and col­lect as much food as we could be­fore the af­ter­shocks came. We col­lected so much, we were able to feed hun­dreds of peo­ple for the first two days. We soon re­alised this place wasn’t big enough to take ev­ery­body so we moved the wel­fare cen­tre onto Taka­hanga Marae. Once ex­ter­nal help started to come in, we set up a food dis­tri­bu­tion cen­tre. We had some of the Red Cross staff based at the marae do­ing reg­is­tra­tion for all the visi­tors and lo­cals who wanted to be evac­u­ated out of Kaik­oura by boat or he­li­copter. The other part of the team was based at the food dis­tri­bu­tion cen­tre, mak­ing up and de­liv­er­ing ba­nana boxes full of food. We were lucky be­cause ex­ter­nal agen­cies started fly­ing sup­plies out to the ar­eas that couldn’t be ac­cessed by cars. My team and I worked 12 days straight, work­ing up to 16-hour days. I think my train­ing kicked in and I put the shock and fear to the back of my mind. To dwell on it would mean to take a step back, and I don’t need to take a step back and nei­ther does the com­mu­nity. We need to just keep mov­ing for­ward. We were look­ing into the big­gest sum­mer of our his­tory in this com­mu­nity. All the shops had brought in ex­tra stock, they had taken on ex­tra staff, and it was go­ing to be phe­nom­e­nal. Now we’ve gone down to one shop­ping cen­tre that only opens at 10am and closes at 4 o’clock in the af­ter­noon. But there is a pretty gritty de­ter­mi­na­tion in our town to get things back on track and I’m pick­ing that come 2018, we’ll be back in busi­ness.


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