On shaky ground


Settlement date for our house was 25 November 2016. Experiencing a strong earthquake less than a fortnight to go was more than scary. It woke us just after midnight on 14 November, the rocking seemed to go on forever. We lay in bed imagining all kinds of damage to the house. What if the sale could not go through…  

The next morning we checked the house and nothing was broken – the benefits of a wooden house without a chimney. The aftershocks of this 7.8 quake kept going though. As usual the trains were cancelled so I worked from home, including my exit chat with an HR colleague in Hamilton in centre NZ that was not hit at all. The past few months had been bumpy workwise so my  occasional “Oh gee (or something a bit stronger to that extent) here’s another aftershock!” were quite apt.

On Tuesday we were OK to go to work again, the building was declared safe and public transport was up and running. With only had three more days left at this job I thought I’d better give it a try despite the shakes every so often. You know how sometimes you know you shouldn’t do something and you do it anyway? Yep, already regretting it during the aftershocks on our mezzanine floor, and really cursing myself when the torrential rains arrived and exit roads were closed off. And then the trains were cancelled… 

Luckily I had a great colleague who also lived in Featherston so I called Richard. During another flooding event in Wellington he had taken me under his wing, which had involved lots of buses and his wife picking us up from Upper Hutt. 

This time Richard’s plan went much along the same lines. We would walk up the steep hill to Hataitai, catch the bus to the station and so on. I filled my pack with most of the stuff that I needed to take home anyway, like my empty earthquake emergency pack (only contained chocolate, long-gone) and my spare clothes. To be on the safe side I grabbed my work laptop. All’n all, it was quite heavy.

I asked Richard why he didn’t want to take the bus that stopped across the road from work. It had to do with timing. I was worried about my 10 steps to his one, and that’s not even thinking about my heavy pack. 

When I’d asked Richard how he had experienced the earthquake, he had told me it had been “all good” as he had been asleep in his tent after a day of pig hunting in the bush. He is pretty fit. Unlike me. Thankfully I was saved by a text from colleague Gunilla saying the trains were back on. We had heaps of time and took the bus across the road. Hallelujah! 

We have earthquakes in the Netherlands too. They are caused by gas extraction in the northeastern province Groningen. Here’s a quote from an article in Dutch News:

The economic affairs ministry cut back the rate of gas extraction in Groningen at the start of this year after an increase in the frequency and magnitude of earthquakes in the area over the last decade. In the first six months of 2016 there were six quakes measuring 1.5 or more on the Richter scale, compared to 12 in the same period the previous year.

Kiwis might think 1.5… yeah right, that’s not an earthquake that’s an earthmumble. But Dutch houses are not built for them and some very old farmhouses have been incredibly damaged as you can read in this article in The Guardian.

To me it’s completely incromprehendable that fracking is not totally abandoned. Knowing exactly  what causes earthquakes, and more importantly being able to stop them, would be a dream come true for New Zealanders. Our prime minister Mark Rutte said on some Dutch pre-election programme that we can’t really stop the gas extraction completely as we have no alternatives. I wonder if this is true and hope they find some soon. Next Wednesday I will be voting for a party who wants to close them down and finally arrange some good compensation for the victims. 


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