At 9.09pm last night the lives of thousands of my fellow Aucklanders changed forever.
For a few moments we felt a sense of horror as the ground shook and threatened to open up beneath us, and as our crockery rattled slightly. We all endured these hellish moments in our own way. Some of us clung to our loved ones, while others found consolation in prayer.
Mercifully the quake was short. But although the shaking may now have stopped, the days ahead promise to be grim and unrelenting.
We have seen with Christchurch and its people how devastating an earthquake can be, both physically and emotionally, and how overwhelming the task of cleaning up can quickly become. That is what we now have to face.
While I have yet to hear any reports of damage from the quake, it must be remembered that we are still in the early days of this disaster. So people will be focused more on pulling themselves from the wreckage of their homes, than on reporting the damage suffered.
Thankfully it seems that the power supply and other essential amenities have not failed, at least in my area. All the same, I have taken the precaution of not flushing my toilet or drinking water from the tap until Civil Defence gives the all clear.
When something dreadful like this happens it can help to bring communities together. Just after the big shake I rushed to my neighbour’s house to make sure they were all okay. “Earthquake?” they said, “what earthquake?”
That’s stoicism for you.
I can’t speak too highly of the people in my local community. I’ve hunkered down, knowing I need to stay off the roads in case they’re damaged, and because it’s important that the emergency services vehicles are unimpeded. But others in my neighbourhood are refusing to buckle. The guy across the road still got up this morning and went to work, the same as always, while the neighbour two houses over thumbed his nose at the forces of nature by mowing his lawn. They refuse to let this beat them.
The courage of these people is inspiring, but I’m less impressed by the official reaction to the catastrophe. There’s been no sign of anyone checking in on our street, and I’ve heard absolutely nothing from Civil Defence. I suppose it’s possible that their infrastructure was devastated by the quake, but surely they had a backup system ready to be deployed. What the heck are they doing?
I’ve a good mind to phone them to ask what the hell is going on, but I know how fragile the telecommunications system must be, so I’m staying off it. Well not completely, because I have posted this on my blogsite, but I feel terribly guilty about doing so. Could my selfish desire to send a message overload the phone system and lead to the death of some poor baby in Otahuhu?
Right now I feel desperately cut off. I tried talking to my neighbours about the situation, but they’re all so shaken up that they’re in complete denial, so I figure it’s best I just give them the space they need to deal with their trauma. When they’re ready to talk I’ll be here for them.
I’ve got enough bottled water to last a week, but after that I may have to risk tap-water. I hope any day to see people from the outside world down our street, whether it be the army or emergency services, and when they come I hope to get more information about what’s going on. With luck they will bring food and water.
I also have to accept the possibility that nobody will come. What if the quake destroyed everything? What if all we have left is a shattered remnant struggling to survive amidst rubble and the piled-up bodies of the dead? It looks like my community got off lightly damage-wise, but that could end up being a curse rather than a blessing. Will this relatively-unscathed suburb be invaded by a mob of feral and hungry people desperate for food and shelter, determined to do anything to survive?
A society where resources are scarce, where many are homeless and hungry, and where civil authority has broken down, must inevitably descend into violence. But I’m a survivor, and nobody’s going to take me down without a fight.
I don’t have a gun, but I’ve knives aplenty. So the next person who knocks on my front door is going to get a stainless steel surprise.