Christchurch quake: A lonely feeling

Burst water main, Redcliffs
Image caption A burst water main can be an impressive sight

Surfers, weekend trippers, the elderly and young children - many have left Christchurch in the two months since the earthquake, leaving it feeling a little too quiet and empty.

And the aftershocks are continuing.

The latest tremor plonked me from my swivel chair on to the coffee table, threw my casserole dish and plates across the kitchen and splayed CDs from their rack as if they were clay pigeons.

This was last Saturday.

Then we discovered the pipes on the hot water cylinder had broken again and water cascaded from upstairs through the wardrobe below and across the bedroom.

Anyone like to buy a house with an indoor water feature?

Water and sewage pipes fracture on a regular basis and the 5.3-magnitude quake on Saturday caused the water main in our next-door suburb, Redcliffs, to fracture and send a column of water streaking 30m (98ft) into the air.

It reminded me of the fountains of Dubai. However, there was nothing Arabian about the biting cold rain, or the road as it began to resemble a lake, with the orange road cones floating off.

But even that was not too bad. The people of Brighton suffered more liquefaction (a phenomenon that afflicts loose sediments in a quake and is akin to a lateral landslide).

The heavy rain gave the area the appearance of a wet cement lake. The stress of cleaning it all up again is becoming very wearing.

I heard that a couple of dozen water mains burst across the city of Christchurch.

No surfers

We must all be grateful for water, however. We got our water restored just before April Fool's day but are told to use it sparingly as the system is still very fragile.

The real problem is the sewage which is discharged into the Heathcote river estuary near us and into the sea. The treatment plant is only just coping and in danger of turning anaerobic and creating an almighty stink.

Sumner has always been a weekend destination being a beautiful seaside bay with its village ambience, sandy beaches and a plethora of cafes.

Every morning I go out on to my balcony and look down on the beach hoping to see surfers. They always used to be there, but not any more. Many have gone away and those who haven't know the sea is polluted with sewage. I miss them.

So I take the dog for a walk on the esplanade. I meet just one person and one dog. Most of the others have gone or don't walk their dogs any more. I miss them too.

The medical centre is still open but a little quiet; older people have been moved out of town and young families have decided to go. Numbers at school are well down and the children miss their friends.

Perching houses

People have mostly moved to other parts of New Zealand. Wanaka, Timaru and Ashburton are popular. Some have gone to the North Island as well, if that is where they have family.

Image caption We don't see so many weekend trippers these days

We miss the weekend trippers who brought colour and money to our little community.

Now they come with binoculars and cameras and stand and stare with disbelief, uttering "Oh my goodness".

They have seen it on TV but now they are seeing for real the houses perched over the edge of the cliffs that have broken away, the gigantic boulders that have landed on and near houses.

They usually come to enjoy the rhythm of the sea, now they feel seasick just travelling along our broken, bumpy roads.

After two months most of us have come to terms with our lives and know repair and renewal is a long haul.

But we live in an area of very capable and very community-minded people, who have done great work already and have the spirit and tenacity to take on the challenges of the future. It is going to be very interesting.

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