A ter­ri­fy­ing re­minder to be pre­pared

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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.

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