Moving and Shaking: Roger Sutton’s Opening Ceranade

“Thank God we had evacuated the red zone…We are being enveloped with dust. It is very very scary,” Bob Parker, Mayor of Christchurch

The Mayor had good reason to dust off his famous orange and black flack jacket today,  after another 16 quakes in 5 hours from 12.30pm today, including a 5.5 shake at 1pm on the dot while we were having lunch, followed by a very scary 6.0 at 2.20 pm which injured 46 people.

Today was  Roger Sutton’s first day  as Chief Mover and Shaker of the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority.*  The new CEO passed up an opportunity  to go for an early afternoon drive around the  Red Zone of the Seismic City with a new Cera colleague, who saw buildings collapse on all sides of him.

Instead he was at Earthquake HQ at the Christchurch Art Gallery, evacuating with Cera and Council staff after the first big shake and watching the gallery glass ripple to almost breaking point during the second.  That was a real team bonding exercise.

The magnitude 6.0 quake registered eight on the Mercalli scale, which measures the intensity of earth quakes. By comparison the February 22 earthquake was a Mercalli nine.

About 50 more commercial buildings in the Central Business Red Zone and Lyttelton  collapsed or were crippled today. They were mainly unoccupied since February 22’s  6.3 killer quake. More than 150 demolition workers and Orion staff were working in the Red Zone, which is more dangerous than ever.

More damage was done to Christ Church Cathedral, including the collapse of the beautiful Rose Window. The clock face at the Arts Centre crashed to the ground and time was finally up for the Lyttelton Timeball Station which was finished off abruptly after being paintakingly deconstructed stone by stone in past weeks.

Some of our dwindling stock of heritage buildings which were previously thought salvageable have literally reached tipping point, as have several more modern commercial buildings hitherto relatively unscathed.

Today was also the first day of an inquest into the deaths of 106 people who died in Christchurch’s CTV building on February 22. Families want to know about the design and construction of the building, as well as remedial work and its effectiveness carried out after September 4’s 7.1-magnitude quake and subsequent aftershocks. Families, media and businesses in the Riccarton Racecourse building fled to the lawn after big shake hit at 2.20 pm, just as the inquest resumed after lunch. It was hurrily adjourned.

Eastern and Southern suburbs are again badly hit. Sutton’s old company Orion was again very busy, with  20,000 homes being still without power and water on a chilly Canterbury winter night. The  psychological toll is rising, with nerves stretched to breaking like many of the city’s water pipes once again.

I was in the CBD last Saturday, getting some stuff from our former offices  just across the road from the recently shrunk quake cordon and just 40 metres from the cleared site of the collapsed PGG building.  Just the sound of silence-without any neon lights. Not today. Yesterday I to biked to Sumner and twice chose the footpath, near rockfalls from February 22,  because of the dangers of the constricted road. Today that footpath was not a safe haven, with more boulders bouncing down the Port Hills like a giant pinball  game. They had definitely stopped gathering any moss.

As the Rolling Stones would say, we can’t let no liquefaction beat us, but it’s pretty depressing for many people experiencing a third wave of silt. The Student Volunteer Army, silt shovellors par excellence, must feel that they’re refighting an interminable Battle of Ypres. Can they mobilise for a third time?

A friend, due to fly tomorrow on his annual migration to Oz, is stuck in Christchurch because the Peruvian volcanic ash clouds over the country have caused Jetstar and parent Qantas to cancel flights. He feels as if he’s between a shifting rock and a not so hard place as he watches the land outside his house ripple like a seismic sea.

 (Another shake rattles the house as I write).

A little earlier there was an eerie red sunset, courtesy of the Chilean ash. The 23% prediction*two weeks ago of a 6-7 quake in the next twelve months would have been a better TAB bet than backing the Moon Man Ken Ring* (though it is an almost full moon tonight) or even betting that the Kiwi dollar will recover from the quake hit today and bounce back by the end of the week.

Sixteen  shakes and what do you get….? Another day older and deeper in debt, the way the Government is borrowing. Plus more aftershocks in coming days, months and years according to a GNS Science warning on TV a couple of hours ago.

In the last few days,  both ends of the 40 kilometre Greendale Fault ruptured in the Sepember 4  7.1 shake have come into play accompanied by the Port Hills Fault, implicated in the September 9, February 22 and today’s  big quakes. Hopefully all this subterranean activity is releasing some of the pressure on the trigger of the main Alpine Fault*, not adding to it; but it is sure as hell adding to our stress and to the distress of many.

 We hope that the goodwill which greeted Roger Sutton’s appointment* doesn’t dissipate too quickly and that  his baptism of fire today doesn’t turn into a symphony of ire as he handles some very tough decisions about the future of Christchurch and its people.

*Blinks  3rd biggest quake  Roger Sutton’s appointment to Cera   Big Quake odds a fortnight ago Moon Man Ken Ring   Vid  Earthquake!  Christchurch 1996 Why buildings collapse

#Lyall Lukey 13 June 2011  My other less serious blog


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