I have been writing this post in my head ever since Tuesday afternoon, when I felt my first earthquake, which devastated the lives of so many New Zealanders. It's not any easier when I try to actually get the words onto the computer.
Wellington is just under 200 miles away from Christchurch, but the top of our 12 storey office block swayed gently as though we were on a calm sea. Barely noticeable unless you were aware it was happening (several colleagues on the floor missed it), yet a couple of minutes later, a colleague said "The last time I felt the ground move like that was when Christchurch got hit in September." Then the news started rolling through - Twitter and Twitpics first, then the mainstream media. The realisation struck us all at about the same time; it was lunchtime, at the height of summer - the central business district would have been packed with office workers enjoying their lunches and tourists checking out the sights. We had been incredibly lucky with the timing of the September quake; this one was going to be far worse. (And then, looking at the later pictures of people's houses, collapsed, or with boulders and earth through them where the hillsides had disintegrated, and considering what could have happened if the quake had happened at night, and whole families sleeping in those rooms, makes the heart stop.)
The afternoon was difficult - I have colleagues with family in Christchurch, and we all have friends down there, as well as an office of colleagues. The phone lines were down, though some texts were getting through, and it was a tense time as we gradually found out that those we knew were alive and well. There are so many stories of escapes, as well as far too many of those who didn't get out.
The numbers are unimaginable for those of us who aren't there; as of today, 146 confirmed dead, an estimated 62,500 people without water, 100,000 have no sewerage services, and 30,000 homes are without power (Source - Stuff website). I don't know how many homes and buildings are destroyed; a Christchurch based friend has said that 25% will have to be pulled down.
It is just heartbreaking.