Tag Archives: Earthquake

Dust if you must


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I have no doubt you have heard of our earthquake.  7.7 on The Richter Scale – yes, it was a big one.  While we celebrate the fact that only one death was directly attributable to the earthquake, that of a man who was killed when a historic homestead collapsed and a woman who died of a heart attack; we mourn for the two lives lost. The man’s 100-year-old mother survived.

And those of us affected by minor damage in our houses try to get back some sense of normalcy into our lives.  Added to the damage caused to roads and buildings, has been the torrential rain that we have experienced since the quake.  Many buildings in Wellington’s Central Business District have been damaged, shops, offices and schools are closed while the result of damage to the properties is evaluated.

But down south at and near the epicentre things are so much worse.  Some places are cut off entirely as roads are impassable.

It is at times such as this when we thank the powers that be for our being unhurt by a disaster of this magnitude that we take stock of our lives once again.

Shirley Conran told us that Life is too Short to Stuff a Mushroom” but this poem by Rose Milligan says it for me:

“Dust if you must, but wouldn’t it be better
to paint a picture ,or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed;
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there’s not much time,
with rivers to swim and mountains to climb,
Music to hear and books to read,
friends to cherish and life to lead?

Dust if you must, but the world’s out there,
with the sun in your eyes and the wind in your hair,
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
this day will not come around again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
old age will come and it’s not kind.
And when you go (and go you must)
You, yourself will make more dust.”

Wikipedia tells me it was originally published in 1998 in “The Lady” Britain’s longest-running weekly women’s magazine. It has been in continuous publication since 1885 and is based in London.

So dust if you must, or stuff a mushroom but for me, this has been yet another wake-up call.  So I’m off to see what other adventures await me.

Godwits en route



An Earthquake.

On Tuesday evening we had an earthquake.  Quite large as these things go.  In fact is was 7 on the Richter Scale.

Map of New Zealand

The long, rolling quake, at 230 kilometres deep, was centred around New Plymouth (that’s the sticking out bit on the western side of the North Island)  and was felt throughout the lower North Island and upper South Island. We are told that buildings shook and evening workers reported being shaken about in their offices.

The first I knew about this large shake was when a friend called me shortly after 10.40pm to ask if I was alright.  “Yes” I replied “Why wouldn’t I be?”.  You see I hadn’t felt a thing but so far haven’t spoken to anyone else who was unaware of the quake.  So what does that say about me?  Oh Lotte rushed into the bedroom where I was preparing for bed, but I thought it was because she had just realised I wasn’t in the room with her.

New Zealand has always been known as the Shaky Isles and as Wellington sits firmly on a fault line we are all aware that at some time – whether now or in 100 years time – the city will experience a large earthquake.  However, this latest one, felt by so many did little damage.  And it was larger than the one that devastated Christchurch and resulted in the death of 185 people in February 2011.

We now have a host of predictions about earthquakes and our preparedness (or lack thereof).  We are told that it could take 40 days to restore the water supply to even a basic level, while road access could take up to 120 days, according to “worst case” predictions presented to the region’s Civil Defence Emergency Management Group, following Tuesday’s quake.

That could leave Wellington residents or commuters trapped in the city for months, and dependent on water rations being distributed by authorities for about six weeks.  Grim predictions indeed.

But for most of us, we go about our usual business heedless of the many minor quakes that shake our city regularly.  But are we being foolhardy?  and how many of us have survival items readily available in case of such a disaster?  I suspect that if I did even a small poll amongst my friends and family, most would be aware of what should be in a disaster kit, but many would not have made any provisions for surviving a disaster.

“We live in the midst of alarms; anxiety beclouds the future; we expect some new disaster with each newspaper we read.”
Abraham Lincoln

One Year On

Today in New Zealand, there is only one thing uppermost in everybody’s mind.  Christchurch and the big one.

Map of New Zealand

On February 22 2011 at 12.51 pm a devastating 6.3 earthquake shook Christchurch, killing 185 people and bringing chaos to NZ second largest city.

Today around the country and around the world, services and memorials are being held to mark this day and to pay tribute to those who lost their lives but also to those who made a difference – emergency workers, medical personnel, first responders, police etc.

Of course, all newspapers in New Zealand are carrying the quake as headline stories  Here’s what our Wellington papers the Dominion Post has to say:

“Today is a day for remembering. It is also a day for learning.

It is a day for remembering the students, office workers and passers-by who lost their lives when Christchurch was struck by New Zealand’s worst natural disaster since the 1931 Napier earthquake.

It is a day to remember the courage of medical professionals and ordinary citizens who risked their lives to help survivors trapped in precariously balanced rubble.

It is a day to acknowledge the forbearance of Christchurch’s inhabitants. It is a day to remember the search and rescue teams that came from Japan, Australia, the United States, Taiwan, Great Britain and Singapore to help search for survivors.

And it is a day to learn the lessons of February 22, 2011. New Zealand sits atop the boundary of two major tectonic plates  the Pacific Plate and the Australian Plate. Earthquakes are inevitable. The only uncertainty is when and where they will occur.

In Christchurch people died needlessly in some cases because buildings failed to cope with stresses they were supposed to be able to withstand, in others because unreinforced masonry buildings damaged by the September 4 quake that preceded February 22 were allowed to stand despite presenting an increased risk to the public and in yet others because of the narrow brief given to engineers.

Instead of being asked whether buildings were safe to occupy, they were asked whether buildings had been structurally weakened by the earlier quake.

For some, the difference between a few words proved the difference between life and death. Cost and the preservation of historic buildings were put above public safety.

The tension between cost and safety is not unique to Christchurch. Here in the capital, the Wellington City Council estimates there are about 435 “earthquake-prone” unreinforced masonry buildings.

Another 350 buildings, built between 1940 and 1979, are classified as “earthquake risk”. To bring both groups up to 67 per cent of the standard for new buildings would cost close to $2.5 billion.

Plainly, that is unaffordable. Building owners have to be able to recoup expenditure through rents. Older buildings, no matter how structurally sound, are not going to generate the same returns as modern, purpose-built premises.

However, doing nothing is not an option either. Hard decisions have to be made and they have to be made soon. There is no telling when an earthquake will strike Wellington.

Some older buildings should be strengthened to preserve the character of the city. Others must be demolished because of the hazard they present, not just to occupants, but to passers-by.

With judicious planning what springs up in their wake can be just as much an adornment to the city as what was knocked down.

The Christchurch quakes were unexpected. Before the first quake struck seismologists were unaware of the faultline that lay buried beneath the city. The same cannot be said of Wellington.

A big one is coming. When it arrives we must be ready.”

Christchurch Cathedral after 22.02.11

Christchurch Cathedral is probably the most recognisable iconic building in Christchurch and there is strong resolve to rebuild a Cathedral in the City’s centre if the land is found to be stable.

I Hope You Never Take One Single Breath For Granted….

“Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.”
-Aldous Huxley,  1894 – 1963, English writer.

Standing in the shower today with the water cascading over this body I thought about how often we take things for granted.  I know that when I turn on the shower the water will spew forth.  When I turn on the stove the gas will light, the kettle will boil when I fill it with water and switch it on and the lavatory will flush.

Portaloos in Christchurch - NZPA

Following the February earthquake in Christchurch many homes were without water and operational lavatories and so the City Council imported thousands of portaloos that they positioned in various places around the city and outskirts.  I had thought originally, that each individual house had one.  But obviously this was not so as we read ”  Meanwhile the city council has issued “some tips on toilet etiquette to help ease the situation” -Be tolerant -Think of your neighbors – leave the loo how you would like to find it……”

Power was reinstated to most homes affected within a short time but some houses have been without running water now for 13 weeks.  They are still being advised to boil all drinking water before use.

We hear almost daily, of further after shocks some in the region of 5 on the Richter scale.  How scary must it be to live there and it is made more uncomfortable to many because of the lack of running water and operational sewers.

So today I am looking at the things we take for granted and making a real effort to imagine living without them.

Here’s a Max Lucado  quote that I particularly like :

“Next time a sunrise steals your breath or a meadow of flowers leaves you speechless, remain that way. Say nothing, and listen as heaven whispers, “Do you like it? I did it just for you.” 


Judith Baxter, EzineArticles.com Platinum Author
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Giving thanks for my family

Having just returned from dinner with my daughter, her husband and two sons, I realize just how lucky I am to have family so close.  My daughter lives about 5 minutes drive away and my son and his family about 40 minutes away.

Many of my friends have children on the other side of the world and see their children and grandchildren infrequently, and sometimes, hardly ever.  In comparison, I see my family at least once each week.  How lucky is that and how can I not add that to my list of things for which to be grateful?

And I have one friend with a daughter in London and a son in Tokyo.  Apart from the fact that they see each other rarely, my friend has the added worry about his son being in Japan at this time.  I cannot begin to understand how he is feeling at present and wonder how I would feel if I couldn’t speak to my children and their families just whenever I wanted to.  We have heard that phone lines are either down or overloaded, travel is restricted and of course, for the son just living through each day must be awful.

As I am writing this, I have just received an email  from my friend that his son and daughter in law are well.  Apparently more than 4 million homes in Tokyo are without electricity.  They are lucky in that they do have electricity but no gas and they cook on gas.  But they are alive and well and that is what counts at this time.

Let’s get our attitude muscle tuned up and ready to go.  Use it as regularly as you use your other muscles.  Don’t let it atrophy.  And when the current emergencies around the world have been controlled and life begins to get back to normal, let’s remember to give thanks for all whom we love, for their safety and well-being, and also for all the things in our lives for which we are truly grateful.

As I finish today’s blog Louis Armstrong is on the radio singing ‘What a Wonderful World’.  Doesn’t that sum everything up for us?

Until tomorrow.

More Reasons to be Grateful

Today, all our thoughts must be with the people of Japan following the earthquake and tsunami Those of us who live in New Zealand, ‘the shaky isles’ have recently lived through the devastating Christchurch earthquake, but there was much less loss of life and damage.  Although for those who lost loved ones, this is no comfort.

Ground split

Fissure in ground after earthquake

The effects of our earthquake on lives, property, business and infrastructure will last for many months (hopefully not years) and will impact on the whole of New Zealand not just Christchurch and the Canterbury region.

Already so few hours after the earthquake we hear that the Yen has been devalued.  How many lives will this impact?

I am taken back to memories of Sunday School and teachings of building your house on solid ground and also the wolf who huffed and puffed and blew down the pigs’ houses.  But now we question is the land solid. We know that the plates move and cause land movement.

Today I am thinking of the people of Japan and the other areas affected by the tsunami and give thanks for those people who survived.

If there is a god in your scheme of things or if you simply look to a higher body or the universe, please take some time today to think of the devastation wrought in Japan and other places and give thanks that so many people survived.  And, selfishly, maybe even add a word of gratitude that you don’t live in Japan.