At 12.51pm yesterday (Tuesday 22nd February) a magnitude 6.3 quake struck at a depth of 5km just outside of Christchurch in the South Island of New Zealand. Although of a lower magnitude than the September 4 quake, the shallow depth of yesterday’s tremor has left a much larger impact on the city and it’s surrounding townships.

New Zealand is a small place. We will all know someone directly involved with and affected by this earthquake. The dust and chaos of some of the first images of devastation and rescue remind me concurrently of 9/11 and Haiti. The care and concern of people overseas is immense, the anxious wait as numbers fluctuate, predictions are made and people registered as missing or found is being felt by just about everyone I’ve spoken too.

Many of the city’s CBD buildings have been flattened, leaving people trapped and destroying heritage buildings that survived the first quake.

Currently the death toll is rising as the search and rescue teams continue to pull people from the rubble. Overnight the rescue efforts continued, with many people trapped, unable to move but in contact via cellphone. Miraculously, people are still emerging alive from flattened buildings. Buildings designed to meet our strict earthquake codes and widespread public safety & awareness since the last quake have meant at least the breath of a chance for those quick enough to shelter under desks, even as buildings pancaked around them.

Currently all efforts are towards the rescue effort and providing shelter to those left homeless. Up to 80% of the city is still without power and drinking water, with damage to water mains being a major concern.

Help & expertise is flooding in from all over New Zealand, Australia, Japan, America and many other places where New Zealand has strong ties. Friends from Auckland have travelled immediately to resume their roles in trauma counselling, urban search & rescue and more. Around the world, Kiwis huddle around televisions, grateful for the information they rely on through international news streams.

Poignant stories are rising off every news site and Facebook page. This one is a must read, especially if you’re only used to thinking about natural disasters in the developing or third world.

Here – I broadcast and write for my clients, particularly the humanitarian organizations as they meet, discuss and formulate best action plans. I have tried to maintain helpful information in my own social media streams, staying off the phones where possible. And I have missed my parents, my sisters and some of my close friends. We’ve all been watching and waiting.

And otherwise:
We wait for the dust to settle to know for sure the names that will be cast in stone and memorials. We try to determine how to steady our hearts so as to best hold one another’s hands in the waiting. We lift ourselves up again into nationhood and talk loudly about what it means to be Kiwi. To be a New Zealander. For those flightless birds that have found themselves flung out to far corners of the world.. we all cast our eyes towards home.

For those of us that wear pounamu, greenstone – whether tangata whenua or newly planted in this land, the ache has set into our bones. It is commanding to watch the leadership and resilience of people in the midst of pain.

When I was in Haiti, I longed for the resolute ‘she’ll be right’ & ‘let’s give it a crack’ voice of a good Kiwi bloke (or woman) to speak up and make some sense of the madness. For the machinery of politics and real-deal heavy metal to roll into the streets and clear away the rubble. Yesterday and today, I am watching my nation and our people respond exactly the way I expected them to in a crisis of such a nature. From the Prime Minister to our journalists, diary owners, aid organizations and regular folk – there’s been no hype, no drama, no sensationalism really… I’ve even heard of journalist teams working together to get the stories out on competing networks. Neighbours looking after one another. Within hours of the call for blood supply, the banks were full.

Things that make my heart sing:

  • our national airline reducing the cost of compassionate travel domestic & pacific routes to $50 per ticket for the week
  • reducing the cost of longhaul tickets to $400 per person one way to get Kiwis home
  • free payphone services and telco providers communicating to stop all non-essential calls for the rescue efforts – and then saying thanks, it’s working
  • hundreds of businesses putting time, staff, services and products into the front line
  • teams of people working together over social media streams to relay messages of lost & found loved ones
  • the availability and accessibility of our Prime Minister to just about every media stream that asked
  • Kiwis around the nation opening up their homes to house the homeless, picking up strangers from the airport in an organized national effort

So now, in my own backyard.. my ears are filled with the voices of thousands of good people. I still wish to hear those voices in Haiti, but for right now.. they are where they need to be.

Yesterday I posted on Facebook “aroha mai, aroha atu” – which means ‘love towards us, love going out from us’.

Thank you for your love and compassion towards our people and our small islands at the end of the earth.