Monday, February 28, 2011

Flight of the Cantabs

History is littered with great migratory moments... the Irish potato famine, New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and now Christchurch after Feb22's great shake. There's no squabbling over the naming of this one - while the September quake became known as the Canterbury quake, there is no doubt that this one is the Christchurch quake. It may have been centred under Lyttelton Harbour but it is the Garden City that has born the brunt of the devastation.

Growing fears over the state of some hillsides have seen streets in Sumner and Redcliffs evacuated. Officials are worried about boulders crashing down onto houses below and some hillside areas with million-dollar mansions are thought to be too unstable for people to stay there safely.

People are not only leaving their homes and suburbs, they're leaving the city in droves.

Since Tuesday's massive aftershock an estimated 50,000 people have left via the airport, and who knows how many just got in their cars and drove away. I have many friends who are currently staying with friends or family in other parts of the country - most of whom will return fairly soon, when the state of emergency is over and they have to return to work.

But what of all the others who won't be returning? Or those who haven't yet left but are only here until they sort everything out? While I have been writing this there have been more aftershocks and sure, none of them were very large, but they just...don't... stop. The constant shaking has been wearing us Cantabs down for months now, and it doesn't get any easier. We may appear blase, only stopping momentarily to assess the current wibble before getting on with what we were doing, but inside the nerves are jangling.

For those of us with children there are many issues ahead. My two children both attended Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti, a wonderful, innovative school located in City Mall and currently surrounded by broken buildings and chaos. None of us knows how long it will be until school starts up again, or indeed where it will be located. One thing is for certain, it will be difficult to find a site that can cater for 5-600 tech-dependent teens & teachers. While my daughter has finished high school, she is now enrolled at CPIT for a cheffing course, which is also located within the CBD cordon and off-limits to all.

There are a million little details that mean living here in post-quake Christchurch will be a challenge for even the strongest among us. The thought of it is simply too much for many residents and the tales of stress, sleepless nights and uncertainty from those flying out all sound the same. Are Cantabrians to be the next set of displaced people? Spreading throughout the land, and the world, to escape a city where the ground has turned against them...

Over the last week there have been many wonderful stories of communities banding together but there have also been moments of shame. For those of us who are sticking it out, for however long that may be, we just hope there will be more of the former and less of the latter.

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