It is now the third day into the Canterbury Earthquake crisis.
Only now are we beginning to grasp the full extent of the damage and trauma Cantabrians face.
So far there have been 15,000 insurance claims on damages, and a full 50% of the homes in Canterbury have been damaged in some way.
As I watch the news, my heart goes out to those whose homes have been totally demolished, or condemned. Homes, old and new, some worth a million dollars or more per house, all gone in the blink of an eye. Some have no electricity, no toilet facilities, no running water.
Stories have cropped up today of so many close calls, of bricks falling down exactly where there people's heads had been just moments before, some of people suddenly falling into silt and quicksand, but managing to to escape.
Many were in tears as the news crews interviewed them, voices shaking, still reeling from the shock at the events that had transpired over the past three days.
Even my fellow Malaysians here were not spared, though this only applied to a few families. One Malaysian postgrad jumped through the window and cut his leg. Others report of broken TVs and other household items. One undergrad went hysterical and called home, totally blowing things out of proportion. In his/her (I'm not sure) call it was mentioned that they were stranded, cut off, with no food and water... Bollocks... that undergrad made a lot of trouble for the MSD here. The parent pulled strings high up in the Ministry. They got the impression that MSD was not doing its duty here. Calls were made. Trouble was brewed.And when Dr Rosli, the MSD director came over from Wellington to inspect the situation, he saw nothing of the sort, except for frightened students who just wanted to go back to their mothers.
However, I must concede that it was almost a miracle that no one was killed. A 7.1 magnitude quake. Buildings collapsing. Deadly combination. But total disaster managed to be averted due to a few factors. First, the quake happened in the wee hours of the morning, when everyone was at home sleeping. It it had happened during the day, the death toll would have been considerable. Second, because of the sparsity of the population, houses here are spaced widely between each other. People are spaced widely between each other as compared to the quakes in Indonesia, where if you throw a stick up in the air, it is bound to hit an Indonesian. Also, due to this, there is less need for high-rise buildings. Most houses here are single-story houses. And lastly, Kiwi workmanship is good.
As for me, I am just thankful that the area where I live did not suffer too much damage. In fact, we got off relatively scot free.
It's just the periodic rumbling and shaking that unnerves me, even after three days.