Reflecting on the earthquake evacuation

As many of you will be aware, central New Zealand was rocked by a series of strong earthquakes yesterday (Friday 16 August, 2013) beginning with a M6.6 at about 2:30 pm. Less than a month ago we were shaken by a M6.5. In my opinion the M6.5 felt worse, more rough, than the M6.6 which felt wavy (like being on a boat) however I know different people experienced the earthquake differently. Perhaps I was lucky to be on the ground floor of a building rather than swaying several floors up in a high-rise.

I was in a meeting at the time of the quake yesterday and after the shaking ended we continued our meeting until the floor warden came past telling us we had to evacuate the building. It was unclear whether we were going to be allowed back in at all so I grabbed my bag and walking shoes and headed out. I waited for several minutes outside with some staff but we were still unclear as to what was happening. Several started to leave and then I thought about the fact that trains would likely be cancelled so everyone was going to be trying to get on a bus. At this point I hadn’t realised that all of Wellington had been told to leave but I quickly realised this was the case.

I usually catch a bus, however my bus stop is the last before heading onto the motorway. I knew it was unlikely that I would be getting on the bus at that stop so I headed further into the city. I waited for a while at one bus stop but realised I hadn’t gone far enough. I met a colleague and we decided to head further into the city. Was this a crazy thing to do with all the high-rise buildings around and the possibility of further large shakes? I’m not sure. We waited at some other bus stops with no luck and then we decided to catch a bus going in the wrong direction, further into the city, but towards the start of the bus service. This paid off for us in the end. We got off the bus and only waited a few minutes before managing to get on the bus we needed to catch. By this stage an hour had passed since I left work. We probably only got one or two stops further on before the bus was full. It paid off going the wrong direction to get on the bus home.

It was a very slow bus ride, as I knew it would be, but about an hour later I was off the bus in Lower Hutt and just over an hour later I had made it home after catching a second bus. My normal 45 minute-1 hour commute took me 3 hours from when I left work.

So what did I learn from the experience?

  1. Sometimes you’ve got to go in what seems to be the wrong direction to reach your goal. It’s all part of overcoming the barriers. Not all roads are straight – you’ve got to go around lakes and over hills…
  2. I need a new pair of walking shoes. My shoes were okay, but if this earthquake was more damaging I may have been walking home. I think I would have struggled with this in the shoes I had yesterday.
  3. I need to get a new phone. The battery on my phone is nearly totally stuffed. One short call and it’s practically dead. Of course texting is often best in an emergency like this.
  4. It’s definitely time to have an emergency pack ready at work. I know it’s crazy after the big shake a few weeks ago and the hugely damaging and fatal earthquake in Christchurch in February 2011, but I’m still not prepared at work. One of the main things I wanted yesterday was a drink. I managed to get one once I was in Lower Hutt but that was 2 hours after setting off. It was also getting very cold as I started my short walk from the bus stop to my home. I was glad for my beanie, but realise on a worse day I would have needed more.
  5. Bus drivers are awesome! They did a fantastic job keeping their passengers safe and dealing with distressed people wanting to get home but not being allowed on the full buses.

This earthquake was a bit of a wake-up call for me. I knew in a bad earthquake that it would be difficult to make the journey home, but the fact I’ve now had to do it, I realise how unprepared I really am.

Thankfully this series of earthquakes has not had the same impact as those suffered in Christchurch. I feel for those in and around Seddon where the earthquakes are centred as they have borne the brunt of the damage. As we continue to feel the effects of the aftershocks I trust everyone stays safe and watches out for each other.

Darfield Earthquake

AKA: Christchurch earthquake

On Saturday 4 September 2010 at 4:36 am, a magnitude 7.1 earthquake rocked Canterbury. It was centred near Darfield (about 40 km west of Christchurch) and had a depth of only 10 km.

It is estimated that it will cost New Zealand up to $4 billion dollars to recover from, but thankfully no was was killed in the quake.


I thought I would put together some links that relate to the earthquake. I’m not going to go into great detail with what is in each of the links, but if you’re looking for current earthquake resources, this could be useful to you. It is by no means an extensive list, but it’s a start.

There is a group on flickr called “Christchurch Quake”.

If you want to follow tweets #eqnz; #christchurchquake

Here are a stack of youtube clips

Latest news:
NZ Herald
GNS Science

Recent Quakes:

Other resources:
Suzie Vesper (@suzievesper) has put together a wiki with links and resources about the earthquake. She is also organising educational skype interviews (if you’re quick). earthquake-shakeup

Christchurch quake map – shows the earthquake and the MANY aftershocks (over 270 by this stage).


Feel free to add any other resources as comments.