Shock as sea dis­ap­peared

Marlborough Express - - NEWS - OLIVER LEWIS

‘‘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.’’

PHOTO: STUFF

Kaiko¯ura fire chief Ian Walker with his busted up 1972 Corvette, which was dam­aged be­yond re­pair in the Novem­ber 2016 earth­quake.

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