Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Quake Swarm, Christchurch 23.12.11

Sunny Friday afternoon 23.12.11. Dec 23 was a special day for us, as I began dating Leah on that day, way back when. Later we got engaged on that day & a sister-in-law's birthday was on that day. Now we've added Xmas Quake Swarm to that day.

Leah woke up on Fri 23.12.11 saying. "I've been expecting another quake for days. Just dreamt of a quake." Her intuition was spot on.

Leah & I wanted to complete Xmas shopping before last day madness. We drove to Northlands, avoided Northlands Mall, as it spooked me after quakes & continued to nearby Verkerks to buy Xmas meat: salamis, steaks, ham, mutton.

I wanted to show Leah the "new" central library, Peterborough St, recently opened post quakes. I'd visited it the day after opening & Leah wanted to borrow books & DVDs for the festive season. We anticipated visiting the library, before shopping at Pak 'n Save, Moorhouse Ave.

Soon after our arrival, at 1.58 pm the 5.8 mag quake hit. Leah was near the front door looking for DVDs. She later told me she dived under a table. I was at the newspaper section, furthest point from the exit sliding door.

7 images, Peterborough St:

23.12.11. Public Library, newspaper section, Peterborough St, during a quake swarm

People's reaction in quakes: Those I could see all froze. The man next to me sat reading a paper. An Asian man stood up & stared at me while I stared at him. An elderly couple at a nearby table sat frozen in their seats.

23.12.11. The Press of the day, Public Library, Peterborough St, during a quake swarm

Adrenaline surging I thought, "Bugger Civil Defence's 'Drop, Cover, Hold' quake safety procedure." Not on when the library was shaking to hell & I was far from the door. While the library still jolted, I sashayed to the front door, while looking for Leah & thinking, "What if power cuts & we're trapped inside?"

Others were frozen by the sliding door entrance & digital BORROW tables. I snapped a ceiling panel & pink batt that had just fallen by a table. My camera flash galvanized others, like snapping my fingers before hypnotised eyes. No one panicked. We were all shocked & stood around, or sat - dazed.

23.12.11. Man escaping Public Library, Peterborough St, after the 5.8 mag quake, during a quake swarm

Smiley librarians helped people at the BORROW machines. Leah looked for DVDs. A manager strode from his office, looking worried, saw everyone calm, so wandered around.

23.12.11. Fallen ceiling panel & pink batt, straight after the 5.8 mag quake, Public Library, Peterborough St

A big man still stood frozen with a bemused smile. It took a while for his 1 000 yard stare to dissolve. Others stayed seated on couches & at computer tables. Only one bloke skedaddled out the front door.

23.12.11. Quake shocked public & staff, by just fallen ceiling panel, 5.8 mag quake, Public Library, Peterborough St

Leah & I were in the "new" central library for about 8 minutes & 4 quakes. A lifetime. Later I saw only 2 of the quakes were recorded by GeoNet, the other two were also fixed in our souls forever.

23.12.11. Quake shocked public & staff, soon after 5.8 mag & 5.3 mag quake swarm, incl 2 more quakes, all within 8 minutes, Public Library, Peterborough St

An aftershock hit & I grabbed a metal RETURNS shelving, shaking wildly. If I'd dropped for shelter the shelving would've fallen on me. A file flew off nearby.

No one else left the library, presumably safer inside.

23.12.11. Fallen file from shelf, Public Library, Peterborough St, after 5.8 mag quake & 5.3 mag quake swarm, incl 2 more quakes, all within 8 minutes.

2.06 pm. Another quake hit, 5.3 mag (GeoNet) while I stood by the fiction section & snapped library computer tables, frozen people still seated at computers, some people seated on couches, reading. An old man seated nearby asked me for a pic copy. I said: "I've already deleted it, as it came out too dark."

While Leah operated the BORROW machine for her DVD's, another quake hit. She dived under the machine. I grabbed it for support while the library shook a 4th time in 8 minutes. We were on borrowed time.

Leah & a staunch, old lady looked for books in the fiction section. I had to break the spell, as Leah stood under roof air conditioning pipes. I dreaded the thought of pipes collapsing on her. "Time to go!" I said. "This place is too bloody dangerous!" We left while others stayed in the library, opposite Feb 22 quake trashed Convention Centre.

It was all very well for those wise after quakes to tell people what to do & what not to do in quakes. When was it safe to leave a building during a quake swarm? When does a quake swarm end wise guys? Damned if you do, damned if you don't!

When was a quake an aftershock? When was an aftershock a quake? Risible, academic niceties when attacked by quakes.

When I'd gathered my shaken wits & checked my orifices weren't dribbling, I wasn't going to stay in the quaking library to see if it held up, or collapsed in a 5th quake. Whatever we did, became just luck in dire quakes. There was no right or wrong way in self preservation.

10 images, Packe St, Bealey Ave:

23.12.11. Liquefaction water, soon after 5.8 mag & 5.3 mag quakes, Packe St

23.12.11. Asking directions to Speights Ale House, soon after 5.8 mag & 5.3 mag quakes, during a quake swarm, Packe St

23.12.11. Liquefaction mud oozing from a pavement, by a drain, soon after 5.8 mag & 5.3 mag quakes, during a quake swarm, Packe St

Shopping was out, so I drove to Packe St & parked near Jake's flat in Geraldine St. Brown liquefaction water flowed along Packe St curb & brown liquefaction mud oozed from a pavement hole, like diarrhoea.

23.12.11. Bealey Ave traffic, passing Speights Ale House, during the first hour of the quake swarm, soon after 5.8 mag & 5.3 mag quakes

Jake's cell phone was down, so we walked to Speights Ale House, Bealey Ave, where Jake worked. Staunch boozers were boozing on two verandahs. Bugger quakes! Couple of old geezers boozed at a table inside. Tough staff worked the bar & in the kitchen, where Leah asked for Jake. No Jake, not on shift.

23.12.11. Bealey Ave, Speights Ale House patrons, reasonably safe on a verandah, during a quake swarm, soon after the 5.8 mag & 5.3 mag quakes

Quake clean up done: I saw a bin full of broken, maroon crockery by the bar.

23.12.11. People safely out of Bealey Ave flats, during the first hour of the quake swarm, soon after the 5.8 mag & 5.3 mag quakes

We walked along Bealey Ave to Jake's flat. People stood outside businesses & abodes, safer during quakes. We spoke to a smiley, SA couple, recent immigrants, we'd never met till then. Strange meeting. A smiley, Indian immigrant couple, from India, stood by too.

4 images, Geraldine St:

23.12.11. Geraldine St info sign, Xmas quake swarm afternoon

Geraldine St: A young couple sat on the grass verge, their baby in a pram, waiting out quakes. A blonde, walking her dog, wandered past waving her cell phone & muttering, "I need a new battery."

23.12.11. Young family on pavement, safely outside their Geraldine St home, during the first hour of the quake swarm, soon after the 5.8 mag & 5.3 mag quakes

Jake & girlfriend were OK. 2.14 pm. While at their flat, another quake hit, 4.2 mag. (GeoNet). The flat shook. Strong jasmine scent in bright sunlight. I picked two jasmine flowers off a garden vine & gave one each to Leah & Jake's girlfriend. Jasmine & Fri 23.12.11 quake swarm would not be forgotten.

Over the next half hour, there were 2 more quakes: 4.8 mag & 4.4 mag. The 4 mag quakes didn't bother us too much, we'd experienced many over the last 15 months. It was the 5-6+ mag quakes which were dangerous & threatened our lives.

We'd all become good at guesstimating quake magnitudes, when quakes hit & whether to get the hell out, or not: 4 mag quakes, no sweat, no evasions needed. 5-6+ mag quakes, get the hell out!

A gentle rumbling underfoot & trembling of pot plant leaves, hung keys or computer monitor, meant no problem 4 mags. Violent shaking or jolting underfoot meant 5-6 mags.

23.12.11. Geraldine St flat, 2.14 pm, mag 4.2 quake, during the quake swarm

Leah & I walked along Bealey Ave to London St to check on Leah's school. Brown liquefaction mud was on Barbadoes St cnr. Perth St: Quake spalled concrete curb was by an iron drain cover.

2  images, Bealey Ave:

23.12.11. Liquefaction mud oozing across pavement, cnr Bealey Ave / Barbadoes St, during the first hour of the Xmas quake swarm

23.12.11. Post quake, abandoned, Bealey Ave flats, nr Fitzgerald Ave crossing

4 images, Perth St, London St, Stanmore Rd, Packe St:

23.12.11. Spalled concrete curb stone, by iron drain cover, Perth St, soon after the 5.8 mag & 5.3 mag quakes, during the Xmas quake swarm

London St: School OK. Back entrance to Richmond Working Mens Club was closed. New CLOSED sign on gate.

23.12.11. Closed back entrance, Richmond Working Mens Club, London St, quake swarm afternoon

Village Green, between Pavitt St & Stanmore Rd: A family played cricket. Bugger quakes! If we moved around outside, we often didn't feel moderate quakes, 3-4 magnitudes. We felt them sometimes when we were still.

23.12.11. Family cricket, Village Green, between Pavitt St & Stanmore Rd, during the first hour post 5.8 mag & 5.3 mag quakes during the Xmas quake swarm

We wandered back to our car, Bealey Ave traffic lights kaput. Cars drove carefully. As it was hot, at an Asian dairy we bought ice creams. Dairy power was off, dark inside the dairy. Two Asian ladies chuckled behind the counter. "Survived another quake." Dairy owner sorted change on the till top, as the till didn't work - power cut.

23.12.11. Liquefaction mud & water, Packe St, within an hour post 5.8 mag & 5.3 mag quakes, during the Xmas quake swarm

3.18 pm. Driving back to Burnside, cnr Purchas St / Barbadoes St: 6 mag quake hit, bounced our car. I drove fast from the lumpy, serial quake sunk crossing, as those roads were badly liquefactioned in 04.09.10 & 22.02.11 quakes. Two cars were stalled on Barbadoes St, so we waited behind them, watching power lines dancing above.

The 6.0 mag quake was the 4th biggest quake we'd experienced, including the 04.09.10, mag 7.1 quake, which began the quake series we'd endured over the last 15 months. The 5.8 mag quake we survived in Peterborough St library was the 7th biggest quake during the quake series - so far. (The Press 28.12.11).

Madras St: Brown liquefaction water puddles, same as Feb 22 quake, but less volume. We'd had sunny days before the Dec 23 quake swarm, so less groundwater aggravated liquefaction. (Heard later TV news that eastern suburbs, were badly liquefactioned again. Avon River was returning riverside suburbs to swamps).

Leah meanwhile had texted Luke & a teacher friend, checking they were OK. Luke was safe at Heath St, our house was shaken for the umteenth time in the last 15 months. Luke's girlfriend's home at New Brighton had a quake power cut. (Heard later TV news, 30 000 houses had power cuts, soon sorted).

Leah's teacher friend was at Merivale Mall parking lot when the 6 mag quake hit. Another car crashed into her's in the parking lot.

Madras St: Tall young man wearing white socks, no shoes, was running in circles, like a chicken with its head cut off, by a fallen, grey Vespa. He was crying. We thought he'd fallen off the Vespa in the 6 mag quake. We'd already endured 6 big quakes in the last hour & a half.

We stopped. "Are you OK?" I asked. He focused & started looking normal again.

"Yes. It's my flat mate's Vespa." Neighbours left another flat & looked after him. We all reacted in different ways to quakes. No shame there, he was terrified & alone & had lost his mind a bit.

I could've snapped a "news" pic, but I despised "news" pics, where ghouls with cameras took pics of traumatised people - crying.

Back home Luke was pleased to see us. He was working in the garage when the first quake hit & left fast. We had power, sewage connection, running water, food. Leah boiled water & I filled the bath with cold water, just in case.

We watched TV news. Leah listened for news on the radio too. I Facebooked family & friends, telling them we were OK, while Leah texted & phoned family & friends too.

4.50 pm. While Facebooking, another quake hit - 5 mag, shook our house & computer.

5.08 pm. A mag 4 quake hit, while I sat in our lounge watching TV. Didn't bother to rise, as I was 5 steps away from our open front door. I knew that distance intimately, as I'd moved it during the deadly 6.3 mag, Feb 22 quake. Our back door was further away, where I'd stood during the June 13, mag 6.3 quake.

Later that evening I shopped for essentials at our local supermarket, Wairakei Rd. Shop was already cleaned up after the quakes. Wine section: floor tiles were red wine stained, with a lovely bouquet of spilled wine.

Maybe next day, rush day, 24.12.11, we'd do our last Christmas Shopping at Pak 'n Save, Moorhouse Ave. We'd avoid the malls.

Bugger! Another quake while I signed off, early morn, Sat 24.12.11. Rumbled our house & computer: 5.1 mag from Diamond Harbour way. GeoNet had recorded 25+ more quakes during that quake swarm night, around Belfast, Diamond Harbour, Akaroa & mainly Lyttelton & Christchurch, in the 3-5.1 mag range.

Seismologists later opined that the 23.12.11 quake swarm had come from their recently surveyed & discovered N-S faults in Pegasus Bay. So quakes from 4 Sept 2010 had moved W-E faults direction, to Boxing Day quake & Feb 22 quake, then N-S fault direction in the June 13 quakes, to a N-S faults direction in the Pegasus Bay, 23.12.11 quake swarm.

My hypothesis: Banks Peninsula was the volcanic pivot & the mega Alpine Fault was doing a great southern wrenching away of the Canterbury region, as the Alpine Fault slowly ground Canterbury southwards. The great mass of water in Waimakariri River & Avon / Heathcote Rivers / Estuary & Lyttelton Harbour & Port Levy affected fault lines too. All that daily tidal mass of water from Pacific to Canterbury rivers / ports & associated ground & back.

It was up to those wise-after-quakes seismologists & geologists to work out, not so much why crustal quakes were bothering us, but what the hell was going on deeper down at tectonic plate level, with all that seething magma. Just saying. Quakes always hit before Rip van Winkle seismologists rubbed crap from their eyes.

In the public library that Fri afternoon, during 8 violent minutes, there were 4 distinct quakes we experienced. I was in 4 distinct places in the library when the 4 violent quakes struck - newspaper section, borrow machines, returns shelving, fiction section - yet GeoNet with seismographs only stated 2 quakes for that period.

A boffin decided for posterity a squiggly graph line with a cone of mini spikes was 1 quake, instead of 2 or more. So much for widely quoted experts! Graphic details to seismologists were academic, yet experienced by people on the ground, quakes were massive violence & terror.

24.12.11. The Press front page headline: 5.8 - 5.3 - 6.0 - 5.0 for the 23.12.11 quake swarm. For the record, we were in the library for the 5.8 - 5.3 quakes, including 2 more violent quakes. Also there were 4.2 - 4.8 - 4.4 quakes between the 5.3 - 6.0 quakes, when we were at Jake's flat & wandering Bealey Ave to London St. (The Press & GeoNet).

Never mind the 6.0 quake which bounced us around in our car on Barbadoes St, after leaving Jake's flat. All that terrifying earth violence happened within 1 hour 20 minutes: 1.58 pm - 3.18 pm, Fri 23.12.11. The 25 or so aftershocks post 6.0 quake, mostly during the night, 3 - 5.1 mags, were relatively mild.

After 15 months of quakes, we'd got used to earth violence & terror in the quake zone. But that didn't negate our alertness for danger & self preservation. Leah went into herself & stayed vigilant. Her flight reactions were instantaneous, dive for cover, or escape. Both Luke & I became super alert & observant, avoiding danger, yet detached, absorbing every detail, while time / action seemed to slow down, as earth violence surrounded us.

Boxing Day, 26.12.11. Like criminals returning to the scene of the crime, Leah & I returned to her London St school. We found the 6.0 mag quake had loosened gutters above front & back doors & we saw longitudinal cracks on an east wall & above an east window by school playground equipment.

We didn't enter the school bldg, but looked through windows: a toppled computer monitor in one office. In 3 more offices, heavy filing cabinet drawers were thrown open by the 6.0 quake. We couldn't see into most offices & classrooms due to closed blinds. Top floor not seen. There were minor liquefaction dribbles in the garden & on concrete paths, as in high summer there was little ground water, so no mud digging was required, as in previous quakes.

In 2015-16 Leah's quake damaged school, London St, was quake repaired. By that time we were living in Fairlie & Leah had worked at Lake Tekapo School for 2 years. While the London St school was repaired, staff & kids relocated to nearby Richmond School, Pavitt St, which was closed by MOE during a post quakes restructure of Christchurch schools.

10 images, Peterborough St:

26.12.11. Library items on floor, 6 mag quake, 23.12.11, Public Library, Peterborough St

Public Library, Peterborough St: Just as well we left when we did wise guys, as the closed library was a mess. I took hazy, flash pics through front windows: Many more books were flung from shelves onto the carpeted floor. Video shelving was the worst, as many lighter than books videos were strewn between shelves.

26.12.11. Library books on floor, mag 6 quake, 23.12.11, Public Library, Peterborough St

The DVD table where Leah had dived under during the 5.8 quake had fallen in the 6.0 quake. DVDs were scattered on the carpet.

26.12.11. Fallen DVD table, 6 mag quake, 23.12.11, Public Library, Peterborough St

*Wandered Peterborough St, Packe St, Bealey Ave, Geraldine St, Perth St, London St, Stanmore Rd.


Tues 21.05.13. Seventeen months later, The Press reported: "GNS science has since reanalysed the aftershocks on December 23, 2011 and has upgraded the 3.18 pm quake from magnitude 6.0 to 6.2. It remained the fourth largest since the September 2010 quake." GNS took 29 months to reckon the magnitude of that quake, wise in hindsight!

I bet the quakes we experienced in Peterborough St library were a lot more than 5.8. Pegasus Bay Fault was the cause. Not a word about the CBD Fault under Peterborough St library. Never mind bullshit by PM Key, on holiday in Hawaii, who soon announced that quake hassles were "psychological."

Content & pics Copyright Mark JS Esslemont.

See Aftershocks 'nothing' alarming (The Press / Stuff Co).

1 comment: