Wednesday, November 16, 2016
The image above is of my status update on Facebook that morning. I woke up before 5am and couldn’t get to sleep, so I was up by about 5:30. When I checked Facebook, there were worried messages from friends who wanted to make sure we were safe. So, after writing a response (and copying and pasting it on all the messages to save time), I posted the more general update.
I also realised that this wasn’t clear enough for many people, so I made a screenshot of a map to illustrate the distance, and around 20 minutes later I posted it to Facebook, along with a narrative:
Auckland is on a different tectonic plate (and island, of course…), and because of that and the geology of Auckland, we generally don't feel South Island quakes, or even Wellington ones. Wellington is affected by many of the same geological features that affect the top of the South Island, and is part of the same fault system. Nearby parts of the North Island—even parts on the same plate as Auckland—often feel the quakes, too, because they're closer to the epicentre and the fault system than we are.
We have our own set of risks in Auckland, but the current swarm of earthquakes (many jolts have been very strong) are not among them.
Hope that helps calm some concerns about us in Auckland. So far, no fatalities in the quakes, which is the best news of all.”
Since I posted that, two people were confirmed dead, and today the magnitude was revised to 7.8. That doesn’t really matter, though: We already knew that the extent of the devastation is huge.
State Highway One, the main highway from the far north to the far south of the country, has been blocked and even destroyed in some parts of the area, maybe permanently. An 8-storey building in Christchurch has been condemned due to quake damage there, and many more are still waiting for a thorough assessment.
Meanwhile Kaikoura, which is world-famous for whale watching, faces the prospect of being cut off as the tourism season on which it depends is getting into high gear. If the tourists can’t come, how will businesses survive?
Meanwhile, several of the foreign ships visiting New Zealand for the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Royal New Zealand Navy (including the USS Sampson, which I wrote about last month), are now helping with rescue and relief efforts, since the only way in at the moment is by sea or air.
And, of course, the Kaikoura Cows were rescued.
All of that is stuff we all know here because it is, of course, big news in New Zealand, as it should be. Most people overseas won’t know about all this, and they don’t even necessarily know much at the time of an earthquake.
Every time there’s an earthquake in New Zealand, I get worried questions on social media, and I always have to provide geography and geology lessons to help people understand what happened, how we’re okay and safe, and why we’re not at risk from South Island earthquakes. It goes—quite literally—with the territory.
It’s unreasonable to expect people to be intimately familiar with other countries, even when they know someone who lives in that country. However, it’s also really nice that people on the other side of the world will be concerned when they hear something bad has happened here, and they take the time to reach out and ask. It kind of restores one’s faith in the goodness of others.
It’s been a very trying week, one I’ve felt because of both my nationalities. But the tragedy in New Zealand this week again brought them together.
Can we have something happier for us all next week, please?
Related: Back in 2013 I talked about the specific risks we face in Auckland.