A terrifying reminder to be prepared
This was another terrible wake-up call for the shaky islands. We are lucky, of course, that the earthquake didn’t strike at midday instead of midnight. We are lucky that its centre was in the countryside instead of under Wellington Town Hall. But everybody knows that is merely the luck of hazard and that tomorrow might be horribly, fatally different.
We have seen haunting images of what might have been or could still be. The devastation of The Elms historic homestead, where one person died but two miraculously escaped, is one symbol of the national earthquake of November 2016. The other terrible image is of the landslide that engulfed the coastal highway near Kaikoura. Amid such fury, everyone will be thankful that the casualties were not far worse.
The earthquakes are a reminder to every family of our shared vulnerability and the need once again to plan for disaster. Last night’s shake was a violent and terrifying shake in downtown Wellington, similar to the other recent quake but lasting much longer. This time there was a serious risk of tsunami and many evacuated from low-lying coastal areas.
Everybody seemed calm and measured and sensible, and that is a splendid thing. The Kiwi habit of understatement is a welcome sound when the hills start to quiver. And as one of the evacuees pointed out, this was ‘‘not just a drill’’, so it was ‘‘good practice.’’ Yep. The quakes are also a violent reminder that the campaign to earthquake-proof our buildings must go on, though it will be costly and troublesome. Again, Wellington is proud that it has taken the threat seriously for decades and it might even think that it’s far ahead of the rest of the country.
It’s true that two seriously scary shakes have left little damage. But those earthquakes were centred elsewhere. We won’t really know how well we are prepared till the big one hits here.
In the meantime, many great public buildings are earthquake risks and many owners can’t afford to strengthen them. This problem is the sleeping giant which one day might rise and smash our cities. Nobody can be sure that we have done enough to insure against that day.
These earthquakes remain something of a geological mystery and were experienced in many parts of the country. That too is a useful reminder that in New Zealand, we are all in this together. Like every other human community facing natural terrors, we band together and help one another. How much more dreadful, in these circumstances, is the rare crime of looting. Hilary Barry was right to condemn the ‘‘scumbags and lowlifes’’ who robbed a New Brighton family called away by the shake. This is worse than a crime, it is treachery.
Geonet warns of strong aftershocks and even the possibility of a shake equal to the 7.5 monster of midnight on Monday. Everyone will remember that it was the second big Canterbury earthquake which cost so many lives. We live under the shadow, but we do what we can.
Ifa major natural disaster occurs, essential services to your home may be disrupted.
Your water, electricity and telecommunications (phone, internet) may be out; and roads may not be usable.
Because of this, it’s important that your family has a plan covering what you’ll do.
You’ll also need supplies to keep you warm, safe and healthy for at least three days.
Find out more at eqc.govt.nz
Kaikoura is isolated by slips following Monday’s earthquake.