Ryer John Wallbank, who emigrated to New Zealand many years ago has
kept in close touch with the home of his birth and has contributed
several articles to “Rye’s Own” since the Millennium. We asked him
to give us a story on the Earthquake at Christchurch.
By John Wallbank
As I sit and start this, it is exactly a year ago when New Zealand
lived up to its name, and what is known as “the most English of cities”
was changed forever in the most rudest of awakenings you could imagine.
If you know what it is like to shake 7.1 on the Richter Scale, then
you are right.
You can gaze across the Romney Marsh from Hilder’s Cliff, thinking
what a horrible sight of giant windmills, but things could have, perhaps,
been done to stop them. Many, many years ago, there could have been
protest and whatever, to try to stop the Dungeness Nuclear Power
Plants (in spite of the work for locals!!!!)
But a natural disaster, now that is another thing entirely, and what
is more, to be out of the country on the other/upper side of the world,
and you feel for an area that boast beautiful gardens, a river that
meanders through the city, complete with punts lazily taking their
passengers as if it were Venice, or the like.
Christchurch, is the provincial capital of Canterbury, in the South
island, famous for its breeding ground not only of sheep, but many
a famed All Black Rugby player.
But as Wendy and I lazed our way on a world trip, we were astounded,
no that doesn’t cover the feeling, when we first were asked “ Where
do you live in relationship to Christchurch ?” by someone in the family
on the Saturday afternoon of the 4th of September last year. We were
as you might say gobsmacked, to to hear the news. No way was our first
reaction, not there, perhaps our home of Wellington, but no, it was
the poor Cantabrians who were on the receiving end of mother earth’s
We watched in horror the news coverage, both in the papers and on
T.V., but the reality was far worse.
The first ’quake happened at 04.35m, but at the time of writing there
have been over 7500, or if you say 20 a day. On the occasion of the
first, the were no fatalities, but much damage to buildings, when
one considers nothing in New Zealand is old by standards in the world,
non more so than when you were from Rye.
By the time we arrived back down under, things were obviously still
bad, with all the shakes still happening at various degrees of the
Richter Scale, even Christmas was not immune, Boxing Day was shaken
by another aftershock, just any other day, but the worst was to come.
Closer to the province on February 22nd. We were in Central Otago,
enjoying lunch at a golf tournament and felt the effects of the area,
already under such tumultuous disruption, as a further “jolt” of
6.3 hit at 12.51pm . This time due to the time factor, and with the
working week in full swing, it was an even worse outcome. Buildings,
already stressed through many shakes, finally collapsed in to rubble,
with loss of life. 180 perished that day, and the figures given now
are mind blowing:
Over 120000 home owners are still waiting claim settlement.
There were over 390000 claims in total, that is home and business
These are being settled at $4 million a day.
(Total =Billions !!!!)
It will take between 4 to 5 years for all claims to be settled.
(Here we all pay a % $ on all Home, Car, Contents insurances)
The Earthquake Commission is under pressure itself at present, due
to the fact that they have been in existence 70 years plus, and cannot
cover all claims quicker.
The effects of the earthquakes are not only felt in Christchurch,
but obviously other towns, settlements and districts, with the nearby
Kaipoi being badly effected.
One of the main downsides of the ‘quakes, has been the “Liquifaction”,
which has risen everywhere, and every time the earth grinds. Due to
the fact of Christchurch itself uses the water that is stored in quantities,
under the ground, as its source of supply. So consequently the ground
ruptures, and the water rises out, mixing with the sub-strate it comes
through, giving forth a cement like sludge, deep, very very deep.
So when will it stop? Who knows, when will Christchurch be the Garden
City again? Possibly never, but the locals are adamant they are, and
always will be, proud Cantabrians.