dust: earthquake stories after 22 Feb #3

5 March 2011

I ventured across town today to the sea-side suburb of Redcliffs to help a woman load up stuff on a trailer – she is moving with her children to Queenstown – I had conducted her husband’s funeral late last year – the load for her is horrendous.  We have been told to avoid travelling unnecessarily and we have heeded that.  But heading over there was a real eye-opener.  The scenes of devastation across the city are one thing on TV and quite another thing seeing it with my own eyes.  What a mess and what dust!  The piles of sand/dirt on the streets become normal, as does damage to every second or third building.  I am surprised to find myself seeing these things and not reacting – it is as if this is has become normal.  It is all abnormal, but the all-consuming nature of it numbs me. Someone sent me the attached photo of the dust at the point of the earthquake – it is frightful.

The trip over was at 9am and I got there much faster than I anticipated in 20 minutes.  Heading home at 11.30am was a different story, it took an hour and a half!  The main arterial routes are all damaged.

Rev Dugald Wilson and I have been working for the last five months on earthquake matters for the Presbytery.  We met with the assessors manager working for the Presbyterians on Friday.  He was quite cut up by what he has seen and heard – he is a fine guy and because of this earthquake he will be bumped up the chain and not as available to us as he has been.  He along with the insurers manager and engineer firm manager that we have been working with are all church-goers – it has really helped – we feel that the peculiarities of our ways of working are understood.  Our assessor friend told us that this event along with September is the largest insurance event in the history of world insurance (recognising also that we are a high-level insured society).  It is also the worst earthquake to hit an urban area in the world – not in magnitude but in the nature of the forces caused by the shallowness of the quake and its proximity to a city.  With that knowledge, it is remarkable that there weren’t more fatalities.  Every day or two the police reduce the projected number of fatalities, and the news today about there being no bodies in the Anglican Cathedral reminds us again that we have escaped the kinds of horror that many other cities and regions in the world have suffered.

The 600 food boxes from the Wellington Presbyterian churches have been delivered and the team have made their way back home.

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