News Archive 2011

What's going on?

This has been the most neglected page of all. I will try to post some more news here than in the past - which is not difficult because in the past some years it has been near zero. So any news is a step forward.

The latest news are at the top.


24 December 2011 - And also these ones, 5.8 and 6.0 and many more...

Yesterday I had intended to write my usual last-minute Christmas emails but after the big earthquakes that rattled Christchurch again, I found myself typing my thoughts in German first and then convinced myself to write a newspaper story about this nightmare that holds this region to ransom since 4 September 2010.

So, well, here I am with a short delay.

Just to let you know, we are fine after the new earthquakes. As on a proper working day we were woken up at 6.30am today - but not by the alarm but a 5.1 aftershock, one of more than 50 or 60 after the initial quakes yesterday at 1.58pm and 3.18pm. We are back to our old normal.

The new normal had been to see smiling and relaxed people, the city recovering, buildings going up and being repaired, shops, cafés and restaurants being opened, everyone busy and happy (and stressed, of course) doing shopping, baking and decorating for Christmas.

Unfortunately the first quake (5.8) was centred only 20 km from the city centre and froLyttelton, and the second big one (6.0) only 10 km away. The epicentres have moved a bit further up north along the coast in Pegasus Bay, devastating the eastern suburbs - some of which have already been for complete demolition - all over again, streets looking like running rivers, gardens like smeary wet grey sandy beaches. The phenonemon of liquefaction, the fourth, for some people even the fifth time since September 2010.

The eastern hill suburbs were covered in clouds of dust as another layer of the cliffs, particularly in Redcliffs, Sumner and Scarborough was spaded off and crashed to the ground, and with it a few houses that had already been evacuated after the previous quakes and sitting precariously on the edges of the cliffs.

We got it full throttle again but there is no more obvious damage to the house, only some shelves and pantry shelves emptied themselves… Stuff has fallen down and over. We only two two broken glasses and a few dented pieces because I had packed all good stuff into boxes, have not hung up pictures to the walls since February, placed other things on the floor.

I was at the lowest point of the garden when the first quake hit, the ground rocked under my feet and I saw the house swaying. Then I walked into the house to check what had happened inside. Really very little. But the 6.0 created quite a mess. By then John was already back home. He arrived rather fast from the last working day at the office as the Lyttelton Road Tunnel has not been closed this time.

As said, the quakes are now slightly further north and out to sea – but not far enough to not create panic and a mess. Seismologists say that more such quakes can happen. After all the quiet months we had really thought we were back to normal. People have lost their humour, everyone is demoralised now. It was heartbreaking to see these people in the east standing in the water up to their calves. Some said they had even tidied their gumboots away as the soft aftershocks had become so very infrequent in the past months.

I am sure these badly hit people are still demoralised and disheartened and want nothing more than leave Christchurch for good, and to as far away as possible. But here in Lyttelton, the day after we are happy and rather relaxed again, nothing serious has happened to anyone on our side of the Port Hills. The few shops that are open are still open, we have just been out for coffee, the Farmers' Market is on, the sun is shining... Life seems so normal again, despite all these aftershocks and the dining table I am sitting at shaking every ten minutes or so.

I will now wrap my Christmas gifts and wish you all

a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Our New Year is ought to be better than the old one. In a fair world this should be easy.

14 June 2011 - Another 6.3 quake

Yes, we have also survived yesterdays massive earthquake which has just been upgraded from 6.0 to 6.3. I am happy that we did not know this while we were driving back home from Nelson in the north of the South Island where John had work to do and I interviewed someone on this occasion, and finally visited the geological centre of New Zealand. We would have worried far more

On one hand we were happy that we didn't have to endure this massive quake which brought back all the bad things from 22 February, from erupting silt volcanoes, flooded streets, collapsing cliff faces (even a house fell down from the rocks in Sumner), power and water outages, broken pipes, gridlock, traumatised people walking in the streets, and so on, and so on. At least there were no further deaths, and of course a lot less damaged as the February quake had done most of this destructive job.

In Lyttelton the historic Timeball Station, our most significant landmark and already badly damaged, collapsed. It has just disappeared from the panorama I have admired from our house every day. I can also see that the roof of Holy Trinity Church has collapsed. Now it is also over for this church, and I am sure this also was it for St. Josef and Union Parish Church which had looked worse by the day before this massive aftershock.

The damage in our house is minimal this time, we just lost a few glasses in the pantry, a tea pot, a vase, not much more. The mess is quite impressive, though. I am not in the mood to waste my time by putting things back on shelves and into cupboards, as I would have to empty them again before the renovations - whenever they will happen. So John will buy a pack of removal boxes, and I will store everything I do not need urgently - which is most of my stuff ;-))

Sorry, I feel really a little depressed - like most people in Christchurch who could lived very well with such a déjà vu experience, and every few minutes the house is jumping up. (Our quakes are brutal vertical moves not rocking horizontal waves, as you might know from Japan's after-tsunami aftershocks.)

This quake was a huge setback to the positive spirit that had developed in the city over time. Everyone had his ideas and suggestions for the rebuild and was looking forward to living in a vibrant city again at some point. Now everyone is frustrated, busy cleaning and tidying up, getting back into survival mode, shoveling silt, once again struggling to find back to normal life - which for a start had not been what people in other parts of the world would not call normal, just our "new normal".

Never mind. Again we are better off than many other people. I will now go for a walk to have a closer look at the new damage. The sun is shining. Life should be good.

24 April 2011 - Aftershocks and after-quake-life

Friends from England have been worrying about us because they had read reports about the daily problems of Christchurch residents after the big earthquake on 22 February. I can assure you that we are fine. While people in the Eastern suburbs built on old swamps have been shoveling silt for weeks, seeing mushrooms grow through the carpets of their lounges, and many having no roof over their heads, their houses shifted from the foundations, we got power back on the next day and water back on five days after the earthquake.

We had functioning toilets and sewerage and could help friends out who weren't so lucky.

Surely our house has suffered some damage, nearly in every room. But most seems minor.

Will keep on writing after our sunny Easter Sunday trip... (Update 14 June: Sorry for not doing it...) Just wanted to wish you all a:

Happy Easter!

25 February 2011 - After the Christchurch earthquake (22 February, 12.51pm)

First of all, let me thank you so much for your thoughts, wishes and prayers after the 6,3 earthquake which hit Christchurch three days ago (22 February at 12.51pm).

We are fine - including Kimi the Bear who did not get dirty in falling rubble ;-)))

Damage to our house is extensive but nothing is really serious, so the house is perfectly inhabitable. We just do not dare to sleep in our upstairs bedroom because the shaking in all these aftershocks gets stronger the higher you are in a building. So we have moved into the guest room downstairs.

Power has been restored in Lyttelton on the day after the initial quake already but we are still without water. We get water for washing dishes in buckets from a neighbour's whirlpool, and could take a shower at our friends' house on the other side of the harbour, in Diamond Harbour. We get drinking water from a tanker in front of the Recreation Centre.

The house will need a lot of repairs. There are cracks in the gib in nearly every room, there are cracks in the outside rough-cast cladding, pieces of it broken off at the bottom of the house. A rock from the (historic) retaining wall on the hillside of the house has smashed the ceiling high window of the downstairs bathroom - but never mind, the rain does not come from this side, and without water we cannot take a shower anyway ;-)))

We are lucky that our house has a wooden/steel frame and only this lightweight cladding. Many brick houses have collapsed, so many people are homeless - including my husband's boss who had a mansion on the other side of the Port Hills. It has struck the rich and the poor - and we are grateful that we have only chaos but still have a home.

Most of the higher furniture has fallen over, many cupboard doors opened, and everything has fallen out, there was broken chinaware and glass everywhere, pictures flying from the walls and breaking more glass.

I narrowly escaped being hit by a falling cupboard which hit the ground right beside the seat I was sitting on at the table, working on the laptop. I have no recollection of the first 30 seconds after the earth started to rumble and rattle.

I do not remember if I escaped from my seat to the doorframe before the cupboard fell, or if I had to take a detour through the bathroom and bedroom to get around it. I somehow woke up, standing in the doorframe between bedroom and lounge, screaming like a maniac - as if I could stop the shaking the louder I yelled and screamed.

After the initial shock I functioned perfectly fine, with my famous cool mind in stress situations. Between the two major quakes I raced through the rooms and took all dangling pictures from the walls that had not fallen yet and stored them under tables, the sofa and seats, in order to avoid further damage in subsequent aftershocks. Standing in the doorframe, I held onto the new TV, so we can now watch the extensive TV coverage.

I immediately rescued my laptop, netbook, external hard drives and my cameras. Who would guess I am a journalist? ;-))) I put Kimi and my other toy animals (yes, I am a bit childish...) onto the sofa where they could not be hit by anything.

We have cleaned up in some places and just left other stuff lying around where it does not bother us. There is no hurry until there is water running again to clean everything properly. To put everything in order again will take months, like after the September 2010 quake. I had not even finished putting my archive and printed VT stuff in perfect order, and now have to start all over again.

But never mind. This is nothing, compared to the suffering other people are experiencing right now.

Yesterday I made my way to the city - which was difficult as the Lyttelton road tunnel is closed, and I had to drive along the harbour and over Dyers Pass. (On day one this was also closed, so my husband had to walk over Bridle Path to get back home, and in the evening we walked back to Christchurch over Bridle Path to get our car back home via the Akaroa road and Gebbies Pass which is about a 50 km detour.)

Driving along the harbour and the pass roads is a bit scary, as there is fallen rock everywhere. They have tumbled down from the steep hill sides of the Port Hills. I drove past a house in Rapaki which was hit and split in the middle by a huge rock. So while driving you always think there might be more loose rocks that could fall onto you at any time.

Driving down towards the city, into the hillside suburb of Cashmere which looks unscathed, all churches standing tall, I could see at the distance that the Hotel Grand Chancellor was leaning towards the east. (Later I could see that it is also leaning towards the south, so to two sides, a perfectly earthquake-safe building, Christchurch's highest building, soon collapsing or soon to be demolished due to this horror phenonemon of liquefaction.) I made my way through streets lined with huge piles of this rubber-like silt, people shoveling and wheelbarrowing it off their properties.

The CBD is cordoned off, and feels like a ghosttown. Thanks to being a journalist with proper identification, I was allowed to enter the cordoned-off area on foot, so had to walk about two kilometres to the Art Gallery which is the logistic centre where all the media meet for media briefings. I was lucky to be there when the police took journalists on a bus tour to the worst affected hotspots. We could get off the bus and walk around, of course only within more cordons to not risk our lives in case of collapsing highrise buildings.

The hotspots are Cathedral Square, the CTV Building (CTV = Canterbury TV) and the Pyne Gould Building. These are the places where most of the fatalities have occured. There might be more than 100 dead bodies in the seven-storey CTV building in Cashel Street which did not only house the TV company but also an English language school.

A lot of foreign students are believed to have died in this building. There is little hope to find any more people alive, and if you see this smouldering pile of rubble you can understand why the spirits of the rescuers operating a jackhammer, digger and crane at this site. No-one has been found alive after 3pm on Wednesday (two days ago).

The collapsed Pyne Gould Building looks like a stack of pancakes, a bent road or bridge, the elevator shaft poking into the air like a finger.

The is no church in the CBD that is still standing, but of course, the view of the tower-less cathedral where about 20 people are believed to have died is heart-breaking. It was the heart and soul of the city, the namesake of the city, and everybody of you who has visited Christchurch knows that it was the place just every visitor went to, due to its vibrancy and its defining character and point of orientation.

A smashed car stands in front of the Cathedral, and there are so many flattened vehicles on the streetsides that you understand that they will have been deathtraps for many.

It is a normal occurence but you still do not really understand why some buildings are so badly damaged and others are not. Just 100 metres beside the destroyed CTV building is a car dealership, and not a single car on the court has a scratch, the windows of the showroom are intact.

Opposite the Pyne Gould Building stands the Edmonds Band Rotunda (Retour Restaurant), still looking good. On Cathedral Square the figures of the giant chess field are standing upright, ready for the next game, and also the lovely animal topiaries, part of the now cancelled Festival of Flower, are unscathed - right beside the fallen statue of Robert John Godley, the founder of Christchurch, face down - as if he could not face the look of his destroyed city.

I hope the Cathedral will be saved for exactly the points I have mentioned above. If it cannot be reconstructed it should be kept as our memorial, like Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche in Berlin, a place to remember those who have died.

My favourite heritage building, the Provincial Chambers, have collapsed. When the Grand Chancellor goes down, other perfectly fine buildings will go with it. Today they have started to demolish the beautiful Old Girls Highschool at Cranmer Square.

Many suburbs have been horribly damaged and inundated with silt. In Redcliffs an entire cliff face has crumbled, many streets had to be evacuated, with houses dangling on the edge. Similar problems have occured in Sumner. Shag Rock, one of the landmarks, is gone.

Here in Lyttelton we have lost the three lovely heritage churches, and the just extensively renovated Timeball Station is a part ruin, with the tower still standing. Most cafés and restaurants in London Street are a mess, the Lyttelton Times is destroyed.

Those of you who worry about their friends in the suburbs, I am confident most of them are fine - sure, with the big question if they were at home at the time of the earthquake. Very few fatalities have been reported in the suburbs.

If you plan to travel to and in New Zealand, Christchurch Airport is open. Just get out of there, there is no way to visit the city at the moment, as in many areas there is nothing but rubble, no water and no power. The rest of the region and the country are open for business and happy to welcome you.

We have posted my photos of Lyttelton and the CBD on my husband's flickr page:

1 January 2011

I wish you all a prosperous and happy New Year!

The most important thing for us I wish for is that the earthquakes in and around Christchurch stop shaking the city. We are so over it!

Norwich Quay, Lyttelton

My earthquake photos here on John's flickr page

More detailed earthquake information on The Press' website:

Also here:

Interesting Canterbury earthquake info, regarding size and frequency of quakes, here:

At the bottom of the page you find the number of quakes since 4 September. On 13 June 2011 when the second 6.3 quake struck we reached 6800. Isn't this incredible!