Tuesday, March 01, 2011


There's a juxtaposition that the media seems to have ignored in the midst of the horror and destruction in the wake of the Christchurch earthquake.

There are large sections of the city where, apart from piles of liquefaction in the streets, life goes on as close to normal as it is possible to be in the middle of all this. Take, for example our street; our house. I can only speak for us.

In the September earthquake we lost power for half the day, and water for a few days. We shuddered with every aftershock. Who knew that after an earthquake like that it was perfectly normal to get 50 smaller aftershocks a day? Who knew what liquefaction was? We soon learned the answers to those and other questions about earthquakes, but with relatively little damage to buildings and practically no injuries, let alone deaths, life returned to a shaky normal quite quickly.

Last week people died. After lulling us into a false sense of security that promised if we survived a 7 relatively unscathed anything less would be a doddle, the earth shook again and a 6 made the 7 look like a 3! And people died.

But still, on the outskirts of the war zone that is shown on TV so regularly, there are people whose lives are relatively untouched. No that's not true. We have all been significantly touched, and will probably be forever changed. But life has a way of sucking you back into its routines, its minutiae.

Jackie has hardly missed an hour at her job. On Wednesday we went and bought bread and milk and some groceries (we didn't stockpile). On Thursday I got petrol because my tank was nearly empty. We never lost power or water, and the only real impact on us is that we have to boil water. Chances are we don't even have to do that, but we're doing it anyway.

When I was heading down town to do some rubbernecking....I know, I shouldn't really have been on the road, but as someone on the fringe of the media I felt a little bit justified being out there - I think there's an obligation to record this historical event ... as I was parked at the lights opposite Hagley park I realised that across the fields in the distance was the Hagley welfare centre in which hundreds of people were mourning the loss of their homes, perhaps their loved ones, and their life as they knew it.

When into the scene walked these three ladies.

Now... I am absolutely not judging them, and I will not pretend to know a single thing about any of them. Everyone deals with stress in different ways, and for many getting a sense of normality ... for example walking the dog ... is very important.

But to me, the fact they were out walking their dogs in Hagley Park suggested they had not been particularly disadvantaged by the earthquake. And the only benchmark I have for that is my own reactions to the tragedy. If I had been evacuated from my home or had lost someone dear to me in the rubble the last thing on my mind would be routine things like walking with the girls and dogs in Hagley Park. But that's just me.

However. Regardless of whether or not these ladies lost home or loved ones, the image reminded me of something that by and large has been ignored by the TV coverage I've seen (which is most of it thanks to MySky). That is, there are significant sections of the city which are functioning relatively normally. Overlooking the chaos, there are entire subsections of Christchurch whose only connection to the earthquake are slightly wider cracks in their walls or piles of silt in their back yard.

There is no liquefaction in our street. Jackie reckons some of our cracks are bigger; I say they're not. Our local supermarket was well stocked and open the next day. Our Challenge ran out of gas on the Wednesday but was open for business again Thursday. There are no gaping holes in our streets. The school is closed but it's not that far past 6 weeks holiday at Christmas so it feels a bit like that. When I drove home on Tuesday night, seven hours after the earthquake, our local fish and chip shop was open and doing a rip roaring trade.

When I drove from Halswell to Hagley Park a few days later it was almost impossible to see any signs of the horror and destruction that was playing almost 24/7 on TV. It really was as if that was a different city.

I don't think the mainstream media are simply leading with the bleeding. I genuinely think the news value of the destruction and the rescue efforts is extraordinarily high. And in no way do I feel left out or isolated, as those poor people in Bexley and Brighton do, because they have been ignored, and even the authorities, by their reaction, have admitted as much.

We in the South-west have been largely left alone because we really have no immediate need.

The thing I'm noticing is that if the rest of the country, and indeed the world, is watching the TV coverage I'm watching they could be forgiven for thinking the entire city has been ravaged beyond repair. And while that may be advantageous in terms of donation appeal (I'm not suggesting that's the motivation), it's giving a slightly skewed impression of what's actually happening in Christchurch.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Tonight I was at a friend of both ours' place and we were talking about this. Your side of town suffered horrendously with the Sept. 4th earthquake. Yet in all honesty where I live, it was total unscathed..well maybe a bit of a messy house, but you wouldnt really notice the difference!Okay, I did lose and water for about 8 hours, but that was nothing compared to what the west side of town, along with Bexley, Dallington etc suffered. But no lives were lost. you have had to put up with aftershock after aftershock. Then what happens a week ago, another earthquake hits, not even the same magnitude, but it created havoc throughout the whole of Christchurch and now those of us that perhaps missed being damaged,the first time round are suffering, unfortunately along with Dallington, Bexley and Brighton, again. And who are the ones helping us the most.. the ones who suffered the most on September 4. I actually feel incredibly awful that I didnt do more back then to help. Here you are, six months down the track still boiling water, this was something, I only found out on Sunday, when I was out your way. I also do feel incredibly sorry for those in Bexley, Dallington and Brighton, who unfortunately did suffer twice and most of whom still do not have water or power. I did get my power back, although not particularly stable, on Thursday, but I got it. The water is still to come, but hey, I am alive and thanks to people I know out Prebbleton, Halswell, Fendalton and now work, I am not lacking from having a shower and getting washing done.
We stood outside work, today at 12.51, many in tears, even the army and police were there - heck I didnt even know we had an army presence at work. For two minutes we remembered last Tuesday..It is strange how long two minutes is. It suddenly occured to me that last Tuesday, at 12.51, in 5 seconds the face of Christchurch changed and possibly up to 250 people lost their lives.... 5 seconds! We all believed that if we survived the 7.1, then of course a 6, would do nothing more than scare us .... how could we be so very wrong.
We got an email at work, from a place in Auckland, complaining that we had not sent some returns through. When advised that we had an an earthquake... the replied they didnt know Christchurch was in Canterbury.. we were gobsmacked over that.