Thursday, March 24, 2011

Being Prepared

I'm one of those people that means to get all the appropriate survival items on hand in case of emergencies, but never quite gets around to actually buying them. So when the first earthquake struck, we weren't particulary well prepared. Cellphones were used as torches, and I had to listen to the radio on my car for updates.

So I prepared a very short list of must have items that are really useful in an emergency, to get for any future emergencies. If you're like me, and you also mean to get a kit prepared, but just haven't got around to it yet, I thought this would be a good starting point. For information on everything you might need, here is the Civil Defence guide.

Water for drinking. Really quite important when you don't have running water.
A torch with batteries that work. Because it gets really dark at night when there is no power.
Hand sanitiser. Rather useful for washing your hands when you don't have running water.
A battery operated radio. Useful for finding out what's going on when you don't have usual means of information.

There is lots of discussion on the interwebs about useful things to have on hand so I won't go into detail about every single thing you need. There is one thing I found came is handy after the second earthquake was the really thick rubber/plastic coated gardening gloves used for pruning roses. If you have lots of broken glass to pick up, these are great, as cutting yourself on broken glass is not really something you want to happen at this stage.

If you're without power for a prolonged period of time, you're going to need an alternative source of lighting in the evenings. The two most common choices to use are camp lanterns and candles. Camp lanterns are good because they have a much lower fire risk, and are easy to carry. However they can produce a harsh light, and the warm glow of a candle can be much more comforting.

If you're thinking of stocking up on candles for your emergency kit, I would recommend container candles, rather than the traditional candle stick in a candle holder. This is because they are much more stable, and less likely to tip over if knocked, or there is a strong aftershock. In my Felt store, I have two kinds of candles I would recommend for emergencies above all others. These are the tin candles, and the recycled glass bottle candles. Both are made from soy wax, last for ages, have good stability and don't drip, due to being a container. Another advantage of soy is that if the container does tip and spill the wax, it does wash out in hot soapy water. The tin candles would be the safest of the two, as they are wider than they are tall, and won't break if they do fall on the ground. The glass candles are really good for light, as the light shines through the glass, all the way to the bottom of the candle.

These candles are available in scented, unscented and essential oil scented options. I have finally listed my new essential oil candles. You might like to pick a soothing scent to help calm those rattled nerves! If you would like a different scent to something I have listed, just let me know and I will tell you if I can make it up in the scent (or unscented) you are after.

Also, don't forget I am donating 10% of all sales in my Felt store till the end of the month to the Red Cross earthquake appeal. I have raised $15.50 so far through my fundraising efforts, and would love to increase this total before the end of the month.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Life in Christhurch post Quake

I started to write this blog last week, as an insight into what life here in Christchurch is like. I didn't get around to finishing it and posting it up here, and then yesterday another chapter was added to this story. Be warned, this post does have a sad ending. If you are still in an emotionally fragile state, you may not wish to read the whole post.

While the quake was violently shaking everything in the city, it seemed as if someone was actually trying to destroy the city. It wasn't something I could have imagined, and even now my brain struggles to comprehend it. To describe it, I have a picture in my head of things stacked up in the base of a boardgame box, and someone shaking it from side to side, trying to topple them over. It was horrible watching buildings shake like that, with some starting to crumble. It felt very real, but like what was happening wasn't supposed to happen. This was the worst case scenario, things like this don't actually happen. We prepare in case they do – buildings had been red-stickered and had fences and shipping containers stacked up in front of them to stop the spread of rubble if they had collapsed. These things had been done in case something like this happened, not because it would happen. We had been told after the first quake to expect a magnitude 6, but I think most of us imagined that meant it wouldn't be as bad as the first one.

Afterwards, it kind of felt like the end of the world. I knew it wasn't actually the end of the world, but it did have that feel about it. In a way it was – the end of the world of Christchurch as we knew it. A new chapter in Christchurch's history began that day. Everything changed from that point. It was like someone had hit the reset button, or, to use the boardgame analogy, you had gone back to go, and had to start again. You couldn't expect anything you knew about Christchurch to be like it was before. You had to relearn everything. All I knew in the moments after was that Mel and I were ok, then shortly after, Lucy. Nothing else could be taken for granted. As the day and then week wore on, I learned that my family and friends were ok.

I had parked my car in a parking building, and wasn't sure what to do about it. Should I go and get it? Was it safe to? I still have no idea what condition it is in, and it will probably be weeks before I know. (I have now registered it's whereabout and my contact details with the police, but it could still take some time before it is safe to recover cars from that particular building.)

On the walk home, I didn't know if I could actually get home until I made it there. Walking up Fitzgerald Ave, we learned the bridge was closed to cars. Would I still be able to walk across it? Would my house still be standing? What was it like inside?

You take a lot of things for granted, such as having water, power and sewage systems. Trust that the ground will stay still, trust that buildings are safe. We all lost this in September, but over time it slowly built up again. Now it has been completely shattered, and will take a lot longer to come back this time.

When I first read of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, I felt slightly ill, as I had an idea what they must be going through, though to a lesser degree. As the days go by, the scale of their tragedy had put a new perspective on things happening here.

***Warning – sad bit below***

Lastly, the one thing I had hoped wouldn't happen, did happen yesterday. I was reading the list of victims names released, and one jumped out at me. The only New Zealander on the list yesterday, Adrienne Meredith was active in the local craft community. I got to know her at Crafty Business gatherings, and then saw her at various markets we both attended. She was a regular at the Lyttelton market, and a great source of knowledge on which markets were worth attending. She sold under the label Revived in NZ, making clothing and accessories for women and girls. I last saw Adrienne at the Nelson market on New Years day, and I will miss seeing her friendly face at future markets and crafty gatherings. She was working in the PGC building on the day of the earthquake, and sadly was one of those who didn't make it out.

Rest in peace Adrienne. You may be gone, but are not forgotten. xox

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lake Tekapo NZ Made Fete

This weekend I will be at the Lake Tekapo NZ Made Fete, which be a nice break from all the happenings in Christchuch. It is on Sunday March 13th at the historic grounds of Mt John Homestead. It is a fundraiser for the Lake Tekapo School, and will have free children's entertainment, a bouncy castle and face painting to keep the kids amused. There will be a selection of arts and crafts, scrumptious food, fine wines, boutique beers to purchase on the day, and entry is only $5 per person. Sounds like a great day out to me!

I will have a selection of items of which I will donate a portion of the proceeds to the Red Cross earthquake appeal, as well as my full range of candles and other goodies.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Helping Christchurch

It's been heartbreaking to see the devastion in my city. From those who lost their loved ones and those whose homes are ruined, right through to those who have helped out, this tragedy has touched everyone.

I feel fortunate that I still have a home, which also housed my business. A lot of others are much less fortunate, so I want to do something to help. For the rest of March, I will donate 10% of all sales in my Felt store (excluding postage costs) to the Red Cross earthquake appeal. I will also select items in which the whole sale price will be donated. After the September earthquake, I received some very pretty teacups from The China Cabinet that had suffered broken handles. As I still have these – one is made up into a candle, the other two still waiting – I think it fitting to donate the proceeds of the sale of these teacup candles to the earthquake appeal.

I have amended the listing already up on Felt, and will add the remaining two once I have made them up. However that might have to wait until next week when hopefully the aftershocks will have decreased a bit more.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Shaken to the core

When I wrote this account of the September 4th earthquake last year, I never expected to be writing one again less than six months later, about a much more devastating earthquake in the same city.

I was in the central city at the time, and due to have a meeting with Lucy from Felt at 1pm. At around 12:50pm, I was rounding the corner of Bedford Row, and walking towards her office, a lovely old two storey red-brick building. As I got nearer, Mel was just leaving the building. She saw me coming, and went back to unlock the door for me. Before I got close enough to say hello to her, everything started to shake.

Thinking it was just another aftershock, we quickly moved away from the building into the middle of the road. It soon became obvious this was not just another aftershock. The buildings around us began to shake violently, and the road was moving from side to side. Bricks started falling off buildings. Then, with horror, I watched as the top-storey of a building which had been red-stickered from the first earthquake collapsed back onto itself. This building was next door to the one that Lucy was in, which was also beginning to crumble. Bricks were falling off, and a lot of dust was coming out of the building. Eventually the shaking stopped, about ten very destructive seconds after it started.

We were very concerned for Lucy at this point. The building was still standing, but had lost a few bricks. She appeared at the door less than a minute later, surrounded by a cloud of dust. I have to say, I have never been more pleased in my life to see someone walk out of a building!

(Above photos by Mel Blowes)

People soon poured out onto the street from neighbouring buildings, and nearby acquaintances of Mel and Lucy came by to check they were ok. I looked around to survey the damage, and noticed most of the older brick buildings around me had lost at least part of their walls. Then I looked up and saw the top of the Hotel Grand Chancellor. A couple of the windows near the top were out of line, which clearly wasn’t right. At that point I realised how serious this was. I texted Josh to check he was ok, and got a reply about ten minutes later to say he was, which was a great relief.

I was tossing up whether it was worth going to retrieve my car from the parking building I had left it in. I wasn’t real keen to go and get it, and my nerves were far too frayed to drive safely anyway. Then a policeman came by and told us to leave the area, away from the CBD, so I figured walking was a good option. He had also mentioned that there had been fatalities. We had concluded this was likely, but it's not good to have those suspicions confirmed.

When we got to the end of Bedford Row, there was a lot of smoke and dust to the left of us further up Madras Street, where we were headed. Some builders standing at the corner told us not to go that way, as there was a lot of carnage. I took a very quick glance, and saw the CTV building. All I remember was that the sign was on the ground, and it didn’t look right. I quickly looked away, as I couldn’t take any more in.

On the walk home, we walked past a car that had the radio on. It was reporting that the earthquake was 6.6, and only centred 1km deep near Lyttelton. I had figured it wasn’t as high on the Richter scale as the first one, as it hadn’t lasted so long. However I had assumed it must have been centred right under the CBD as it was so violent. It later turned out to be 6.3, and 5km deep. I also thought I heard someone say that the bus exchange had collapsed in the middle, so began to wonder about the state of my car, which was parked in the Crossing carpark. I haven’t heard any similar reports since, so am now hoping my car is safe and sound, and now believe they may have been talking about the bus depot. I imagine it could be weeks before it is safe to go back and retrieve it.

The last part of my journey home proved interesting. The bridge on Fitzgerald Ave was closed to traffic due to damage. It was still walkable though, so I ran across the bridge, and then gingerly stepped over the newly formed step at the other end. It was quite an obstacle course to navigate the next part of the road that hugs the river, the road was cracked and had lots of humps and hollows.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got home. There was a bit of liquefaction in our street, when there wasn’t any at all last time. Our house looked fine from the outside, which was a good start. It was a complete mess inside, much worse than last time. Glasses had fallen out of the cupboard and smashed all over the kitchen, and the fishtank had smashed and spilled water all over the carpet.

It was sad to see the fish lying on the floor, and I wondered if I should find a container of water to put them in, just so I could feel like I had tried to give them a shot at life. Then one of them wiggled, so I raced around trying to find a suitable container, and some water to put in it. I ended up scooping it out of the toilet cistern. I picked up the two fish I could see and put them in the water. They both wiggled, so still had some signs of life left. I looked around for the other two, and found one under the ottoman. It didn’t move when I picked it up, and after leaving it in the water for five minutes, took it back out, as it was clear it was too late for this one. I looked around for the other one, but couldn’t see it anywhere, and wasn’t keen to start picking up the cabinet to look for it, with all the broken glass on the floor, and continuing aftershocks. Still, I thought it was a good effort that two had survived after being out of water for an hour.

I started to clean up the broken glass off the floor, and began to field calls and texts from concerned family and friends. I knew I could switch on the radio to find out what was happening, but still couldn’t take any more in at this stage. It was hard enough to comprehend what I had experienced.

After Josh came home, he started cleaning up the mess in an effort to locate the other fish. It still wasn’t anywhere to be seen, so we took another look, and I saw it under the couch. Josh got it out, and, after nearly three hours, it was still moving! So we now still have three out of the four fish which I think is pretty impressive.

The fish in their new home

We finally switched the radio on at about 5pm, and I learned why I had so quickly looked away from the CTV building. It had collapsed, along with another, the PGC building. The numbers feared dead were in the hundreds, and it was clear this was a day I will never forget.

We stayed at our house the first night. I had considered sleeping downstairs in the lounge, but with the carpet sodden from the fishtank, the upstairs options was still slightly more appealing. The next day when we still had no power or water, we decided to take up the offer from Josh's parents to go and stay at their house in Waikari for the next few days.

Abandoned buses that couldn't go any further due to the damage to the bridge and road

Events like this highlight what is truly important in life. The only thing that really matters is people, everything else are just nice little extras. Every time that afternoon I saw a familiar face, a tiny piece of order returned. This wasn't the end, and we can get through it.

It has been really humbling to hear from all the people who were thinking about me, and wanted to know that I and my family were safe. The messages came from all over the world, from former colleagues from London, to friends, family and blog/facebook/twitter followers all over the country. It means a lot to know you are all thinking of me, and I would like to express a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has thought of us.

My heart goes out to all of those people who have lost or are missing family or friends, it has been a terrible time for this city.

I had planned to write a blog post on Tuesday summing up what I had achieved over the last year, as it was a year to the day that I lost my job. I never in my wildest dreams imagined how the day would unfold.

Kia Kaha. Christchurch will get through this, and be stronger than ever before.