Shock as sea disappeared
‘‘Holy s..., the sea’s gone.’’
The sun had just risen on November 14, 2016, and Kaiko¯ura fire chief Ian Walker was looking out at a foreign foreshore.
The veteran firefighter and his 25-strong brigade had spent the preceding hours navigating earthquakeravaged streets as they rushed from one job to another.
There was no power and the phone lines were down. Their only form of communication with the outside world was through their fire service radios.
Walker was shocked. In place of the sea and the waves, he was confronted by a vista of uplifted rocks – a sign, he thought, a tsunami was imminent.
Over the radio, he got hold of the command centre in Christchurch to tell them he and his brigade were moving to higher ground.
‘‘I might have used the odd f-word, because I got such a shock seeing the ocean had disappeared,’’ the 72-year-old said.
Even now, knowing it was seabed uplift and not the water retreating, he said it was hard to believe the changes wrought by the earthquake.
‘‘I just can’t believe it’s a year ago. I won’t be opening a bottle of champagne or anything, because it’s cost people financially and families have left Kaiko¯ura,’’ Walker said of the anniversary.
‘‘But regardless of what’s happened you can’t put the clock back and start again, it’s happened now and we’ve got to deal with it.’’
During the first 10 days after the earthquake, 101 firefighters from around New Zealand arrived in Kaiko¯ura. With their help, the local brigade dealt with 580 call-outs, Walker said.
‘‘It was just all on, it was busy, busy, busy.’’ But a lot of progress had been made since the earthquake, Walker said
‘‘It’ll be a few more years until Kaiko¯ura is back to where it was, but there’s no point getting miserable about it, you take what comes and make the best of it.’’
Kaiko¯ura fire chief Ian Walker with his busted up 1972 Corvette, which was damaged beyond repair in the November 2016 earthquake.