Posted courtesy of Thomas W. Gardner, Trinity University, San Antonio, TX, who is on sabbatical at Canterbury University, Christchurch, New Zealand. This e-mail was sent to his colleagues on Tue, 22 Feb 2011 , at 14:49:37.
That was a big one, 6.3 -10 km south of city and less than 5 km deep!! I was on the 3rd floor of the Gesoc building. Building started shaking, dust, then tiles fell from ceiling. I fell off my chair and couldn’t stand up. Looked out window across quad and saw another 5 story building swaying and glass shattering. I hid under the desk. It was to the point where I was actually thinking that the building would collapse if it got any worse!!! It lasted for about 10 seconds I think (time moves in strange ways when the earth shakes).
Everybody evacuated outside to parking lot. We were just standing around and a 6.0 aftershock hit. Could barely stand up for that one also. Cars were doing a crazy dance and we had to dodge them bouncing around!!! We watched the building shake and the communications towers sway back and forth. It was unreal!!!
Uni was evacuated, so I went home to my flat. All lamps and dressers were on the floor and book cases toppled. Toilet bowls had spilled water everywhere. I lost all of my bottles of wine, but one, broken on the floor (that was serious!!!!). Many big aftershooks 5+ every couple of hours and little ones every 30 minutes or so. I immediately got my camera, a bottle of water, a flashlight and headed out to record the chaos. People were wondering aimlessly in the street and the roads out of the city center were in gridlock. I walked about 5 km to get to the city center where I could see smoke rising. Roads buckled and lots of liquefaction and houses toppled into the streets. Cathedral spire on Cathedral square toppled killing many. City center was blocked off, and I couldn’t get closer. Attached are a few picts of the adventure. Power was out all nite. When it got dark it was really interesting and a bit scary. Sirens and helicopters everywhere. Too many aftershocks to sleep. A couple were big enough to knock the lamps back off of the tables. I have left them on the floor!!! WOW just had another shaker made the glass rattle and table move!!!!!! Rock and roll.
All uni communication services are down so I walked to a nearby motel with broadband wifi. I’m sitting in the restaurant with a lot of other people wondering what to do. I’m trying to find a bike so I can go explore more, but phone lines are not working so I can’t call to get one. We can only do texting.
Anyway, I’m fine and thanks for everyone asking. It has stopped raining (that was making everything more ominous) and the sun is coming out.
Great first hand account—and with photos!! Appreciated the first hand description. Just heard this morning that my cousin survived. He split for Blenheim to await the return of electricity to his house.