On Thursday, I went to my dads to start shoveling liquefaction from his drive. Liquefaction is a process that occurs when a gravel or swampy landscape is shaken severely. It sinks slightly, and any liquid is brought to the top layer. It emerges through cracks in what Christchurch has come to call 'sand volcanoes', because they pretty much look exactly like little volcanoes of sand. When this shit dries it's basically like someone dropped a beach on your drive, or your lawn, or your street. When it's wet, it's like someone dropped a wet beach. There is a danger that broken wastewater pipes beneath properties have contaminated the sand, too, so you have to be fairly careful. We spent some three hours digging out dads drive. My dad and I are not very fit, but my brother and his girlfriend, a builder and tradesman's assistant by trade respectively, had a bit more in them. After clearing two thirds of the driveway, we went to my brothers place to see what could be done there.
Liquefaction had flowed from his neighbours house through his front yard, though it was only a little patio with some stone chip down. It still took a huge number of wheelbarrows full to clean out the front, by which time my dad and I were completely knackered. Kelly and Isaac did as much as they could of the back yard, while dad and I sat and watched TV for the first time since the quake, as Isaac's place had power, where we didn't. The pictures were shocking. The two main collapsed buildings, where rescue efforts were being focused, were scary to see. The CTV building basically looked like a rubbish tip, on fire. The Pyne Gould Corporation building had pancaked down on itself, six stories or so. It didn't look real. It looked like a movie set. Amateur footage taken on cellphones after the quake.. it all just. There was no way my mind could accept that this was our city. but there it all was.
After that I went home and had a sleep, because I am unused to physical labour, lol.
On Friday it was raining, so I made the executive decision that we wouldn't do any outside cleaning up that day, and my dad and brother agreed. We had power on by then, so I spent most of the day catching up with people on msn, twitter, facebook, livejournal and AIM, assuring them I was okay, and then playing some Xbox 360 to take my mind off.. well.. everything else that I would be thinking about.
Today we spent about three hours at my place (my aunt and uncles place, really, but I live here) shovelling more silt and liquefaction from the back yard. We gave up around lunchtime, after dumping 3 or 4 trailerloads on the footpath outside so a city council digger can come along and put it all on a truck and take it away. We probably tidied up a third of the back yard. In the afternoon, a group of people from Ashburton came up the drive, and asked my uncle if he had any silt needed clearing. These are just.. random people.. I don't know if they were farmers or just people who'd come to help, with their shovels, but they finished the rest of the work we'd started.. just. the whole of new zealand just .. wants to be there for us. and it's amazing. it's an amazing feeling.
Not just New Zealand. I've had contact with two clients of our business in Japan, to let them know of the earthquake and that their orders will be delayed. They were both very concerned for all of our staff, and the building, the business, both wanted to know what they could to help. We have Urban Search and Rescue teams in the city from the UK, USA, Taiwan, Singapore, China, Japan, Australia, and all over New Zealand. We have 200 police officers on loan from New South Wales. These teams have experience in Haiti, Sichuan, New Orleans, and of course the various disasters Australia has experienced over recent times. We have the best people in the world, combing the ruins of our city, for any signs of life.
I said to bousteirs the other day, the sound of the army Iroquois helicopters passing overhead, the C130 Hercules flying over to land at the airport, have become everyday sounds, but are so.. comforting. to know that there are people immediately around you who are trying to remedy this insanity.
We still have no wastewater, but a block away at the mall, are a bank of 20 or so portaloos from Ashburton. I decided it was far more comfortable than pooping in a shopping bag, so I walked down to use the ablutions. I heard a guy open the cubicle next to me. 'There's no paper in this one!'. Hurriedly checking around my own dark portaloo I called out 'shit.. me neither..' he went down each of the toilets checking, found one that had paper, and knocked on the door to pass me a handful.
I mean it seems like a pretty simple thing. but everyone experienced the event. everyone's heard and seen the same fucked up shit from town. everyone's in this together and they know it. they know we have to stick together to pull through.
Current estimate is one third of the buildings in the central business district will have to be demolished.
Current death toll is 145 confirmed fatalities, with 200+ still missing (some of whom will be on the list of fatalities, once they identify them).
82% of homes in Christchurch have power this evening.
50% of homes have running water and waste facilities.
I have not had a shower since Monday evening.
I am now out of clean clothes.
I am tired.
but I know out there, there are a lot of people thinking of me. maybe not directly, maybe of Christchurch as a whole, but there are a lot of people out there, focusing their energy on healing this city.
and I can't thank them enough.