On Friday morning our petsit became a bit more interesting. The house started to shake. I looked at Erik, Erik ran to a door threshold, and the puppy barked. Only after about 30 seconds did I realize that, no, I was not in Brussels where trams passed our apartment, and no, a large truck didn’t just drive by; that was a 5.7 magnitude earthquake. For the next 48 hours we would experience this phenomenon in lesser degrees over and over and over. Then around 5 pm on Sunday, Wellington was rocked for 1 minute by a magnitude 6.5 quake. We both ran to door frames and hoped that things wouldn’t start crashing down around the home left in our care.
After this one we were wary enough to look up what we actually should be doing in an earthquake and found that in newer houses, doorways are not actually strong points and that shelter under a sturdy table while protecting your head is your best bet. We also moved the family’s earthquake kit close to their heavy duty dining room table as each aftershock put us on edge all the way into the next night.
The quake originated 35 miles away (off the coast of Seddon) and since it released energy equivalent to 100 “Hiroshima” nuclear bombs, we still felt significant effects. Apparently, being very near the Pacific Plate line, New Zealand has more than 14,000 earthquakes a year, but only about 20 are over 5.0 in magnitude.
The next day in the central business district (CBD), we found almost everything closed as the city sent engineers out to perform structural damage assessments before any buildings could be re-opened. There were a few broken windows and one place where two buildings had begun to discard pieces, but it seems that most of the damage to Wellington was more emotional than structural. News reports describe people screaming and diving for cover even during the lesser quake on Friday. The fear is very real here ever since the disaster in Christchurch in 2011 that killed 185 people and decimated the city.
Seismologists believe it likely that another 5.0+ may hit the region over the next couple weeks. As my Mother said, “Time to get out of Dodge.”