Hum­bled by the most dev­as­tated

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By LAURA MCLEAY

In Christchurch’s cen­tral busi­ness district, many of the shaken cafes still had ta­bles laid with plates, glasses and half eaten food.

‘‘It was a very eerie ex­pe­ri­ence,’’ said Mata­mata’s Se­nior Con­sta­ble Martin Capener, who spent eight days in Christchurch vol­un­teer­ing to help re­store some or­der to the city cen­tral.

‘‘At the cafes you could see where the peo­ple had been eat­ing. Now they have just dis­ap­peared. It was just empty and dark.’’

Mr Capener was one of 60 of­fi­cers sent from the Waikato to Can­ter­bury from Fe­bru­ary 28 to March 8.

He worked along­side the New Zealand Army and the Aus­tralian Po­lice from 7pm to 11am each day, work­ing 15 to 16 hour shifts.

They con­ducted check points, walked through the streets look­ing for loot­ers and checked cre­den­tials of searchers or oth­ers en­ter­ing the cen­tral city.

Mr Capener was shocked by the ex­tent of dev­as­ta­tion and said it was a lot worse than what was por­trayed on tele­vi­sion.

‘‘I could not be­lieve the level of dam­age that ex­isted. I had seen the tele­vi­sion pic­tures, as had ev­ery­one else, but the sheer level of de­struc­tion still amazed me,’’ he said.

‘‘The at­mos­phere, smell and noises of be­ing there showed you how great the true scale of it was.’’

The af­ter­shocks also came fre­quently. ‘‘The big­gest af­ter­shock I felt while I was down there was 4.8 mag­ni­tude and I could see the build­ings were rock­ing. ‘‘It was an un­usual ex­pe­ri­ence,’’ he said. ‘‘The build­ing next to me was moan­ing and creak­ing as though it was on the verge of col­lapse.’’

He said he has a deep re­spect for the vol­un­teers and Cantabri­ans be­cause de­spite all their heartache, they still banded to­gether to help each other out. ‘‘The peo­ple there are quite amaz­ing.

‘‘We had a lot of them help­ing out by bring­ing us food,’’ he said.

‘‘These were the peo­ple who were di­rectly af­fected. ‘‘This was a very hum­bling part of it.’’ Mr Capener said even though it was a hard ex­pe­ri­ence, he would vol­un­teer his time again if it was needed.

Restor­ing or­der: Mata­mata Se­nior Con­sta­ble Martin Capener went to Christchurch to help his col­leagues fol­low­ing the mas­sive earth­quake on Fe­bru­ary 22.

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