(The first few hours of the CHristchurch Earthquake Feb 22 2011)

By: Tony Foote

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The Quake - My Experience

I was a motorcycle postie working for DXMail in Christchurch.

At 12.50pm on 22 February, 2011, I had just pulled to a stop in Sanskrit Place, near the top of Richmond Hill above Sumner. .

Instantly, I was violently thrust up in the air with my motorcycle still under me, then crashed down, still on my bike. .

The ground vibrated and lurched violently sideways as I wrestled with the machine to try and keep it, and myself, upright with everything around me, trees, buildings, cars, thrashing violently.†.

I immediately recognised this as a serious earthquake and held on for dear life. It crossed my mind that the bike was probably my only way home, in the east of the city so I did everything to protect it from damage. It was so violent that I knew there would be souls lost. .

I'd felt several nasty shakes up there since the September 4 2010 quake and was always ready for the big one GeoNet said was maybe coming. It later turned out I was quite near the epicenter. .

This shaking went on for nearly a minute then stopped suddenly, leaving a bit of swaying of the ground. .

There was a blue car parked outside a house with people holding onto it as it thrashed around. An alarm was going off at the house. A woman let go of the car and headed to the house. I shouted to her to keep hold of the car but she let go, saying she had to turn off the alarm. Crazy what people think of at times like this. .

Right then, there was a second quake, very violent and as it turns out, destructive and murderous. The woman was thrown to the ground. .

Moments after it finally stopped the second time, a man came running out of his gate yelling that his house had just fallen down the cliff. There was shouting. .

Someone said "Oh my God, look over there". All around was thick red rock dust. It was intense and you couldn't see through it. We now know this was from a giant boulder which had just fallen from the hill and crushed the Sumner RSA. I had only been down there a few minutes before the current delivery, but never thought about it at the time. There were bigger problems ahead. .

k People were helping the woman near the car so I made my way down Richmond Hill, between the wires down, boulders all over the road and gouges along the middle of the roads splitting the road between the unstable bank and the cliff on the left of the road, and tried to get home to Aranui, on the other side of the Estuary. I could see that there was serious property damage. .

As I got to the bottom of the hill, it became obvious how serious this was. Power lines down on all the roads, huge rips in the middle of, and across most roads and there were boulders everywhere around Sumner under the hills on the road. .

Quakes kept coming as I rode slowly along the main road to Redcliffs, picking my way between the rocks and gouges. The entire road had been split up the middle with a wide crack and I concentrated on staying away from it as it moved in and out during each shake, and everything was damaged, everywhere. .

As I passed Redcliffs school, there was another very large shake. It was so severe it forced traffic, including myself to stop until it abated. As I sat there, I thought I heard loud rain. I looked to my left to see the cliffs running down like water all along Redcliffs, behind the Redcliffs School. .

There was no panic and people behaved in an insanely orderly stunned manner. No one tried to pass. No one tried to get ahead or cut in to a line of traffic. .

At the overpass in Martindales road, there was a stationary train straddling the overpass. It seemed to be either derailed or unable to proceed. A very long line of stationary traffic had built up as people nervously drove under the bridge, one by one, in case it fell. Turns out the overpass was actually severely damaged. .

I don't know why, but I did not ride past that traffic, even though I could have since I was on a motorcycle, even though I was desperately worried about my loved ones, and pets at home. I felt I didn't have that right to pass. I still can't explain it to this day. .

It took nearly two hours to ride the 6km home through widespread, knee-deep sewage, water and liquefied sand (caused by liquefaction) hiding holes in the road into which cars were crashing and sinking. The closer I got to home, the more damage there was. .

People were driving on footpaths to avoid the holes - burst water mains which undermined the roads, causing them to collapse. There were trucks and cars sticking out of holes in our street. People were everywhere wondering what to do. .

This was the beginning of a very bad period in our city's history.