Earthquake New Zealand

Oaro – Kaikoura

11 November 2016

We got hold of our friend Mike this morning on his cell phone (he’s charging it off his truck battery). He was up on his roof checking the chimney to his wood burner stove and fireplace. He has no power or running water. His house has survived so far but is severely shaken with all the cupboard contents dumped out. It is situated in a gully at the foot of very steep hills with lovingly-landscaped lawn and a driveway that crossed over the railway line to the main road, which is 20 metres from the rocky coast. The house has sweeping views out over the sea and daily you could see schools of dolphins doing their thing and the tour boats following them.

Mike's Place - Oaro Kaikoura

Pre-earthquake – Mike’s Place – Oaro Kaikoura

The first major shock hit around midnight and scared the bejasus out of him and his daughter, he says. The house rattled, thumped and rocked about. The power went off and in the pitch-darkness they heard and felt thunderous noises outside as fissures opened and slips started, sending massive boulders tumbling down the hillsides. They are lucky to have survived unscathed.

The railway line and South Island’s major State Highway 1 at the front of his property are destroyed. The highway is completely inoperable. The severely damaged roads themselves being one problem, while one or two of the massive slips over the road and rail nearby are of such magnitude that they cannot be cleared. The local Maori, apparently, will not allow the dumping of land into the sea either. The seabed along the coast has risen 1 to 2 metres causing some curious anomalies: paua (abalone), usually clinging to rocks under the water, are now in their hundreds above water – abundant crayfish are in easy reach in rock-pools if you would want to risk it with the after-shocks still going on.

Paua - Kaikoura - Ref Twitter Lou Gordon Green

Paua – Kaikoura – ref Twitter Lou Gordon Green

He flagged a passing chopper down (there are dozens of them buzzing around – mostly evacuating tourists and locals) and got them to take him over the hills at the back of his place. He saw further massive cracks in nearby hillsides which presages even more major slips. His existing access-tracks to his high lands were destroyed. While I talked with him it was raining – just what those slopes don’t need.

Mike's Property - Oaro Kaikoura

Pre-earthquake – Mike’s Property – Oaro Kaikoura

In his opinion the whole area (he is just south of Kaikoura township) will be ‘Red Zoned’ (meaning it is uninhabitable and the Government will pay all landowners out). He expects all in his area (Oaro is his nearest, very small, settlement) will be evacuated because of the dangers from further rock-falls and slips and the fact that the only way in or out for them now is by helicopter.

Land-slip Kaikoura - Ref NZ Herald

Road disappearing into land-slip Kaikoura – ref NZ Herald

Being intimately familiar with those shaky isles of New Zealand I have felt quite a few earth tremors (my brother was lucky enough to walk out of one of the most damaged sections of down-town Christchurch during its major quake in 2010). But how totally unnerving and terrifying it must be, in whichever country, when the shake is at night; all is pitch black, the power is cut and nature tosses and heaves with an apocalyptic sound track – and if you live in a gully at the foot of rocky hills it would be the stressful stuff of nightmares. As I write this there is another aftershock of 4.4 magnitude at 25km depth in the area.

So it goes on.