As I left our story we were driving up a hill to avoid the potential tsunami. We parked up and tried to work out what was happening.
My mum told us how the heavy wooden bed frame she was sleeping on moved 3 inches to the side with her on it! Then when she managed to get off, the door had jammed in the frame and she was only just able to open it after applying significant force. It was a very scary thought.
Through talking with others and intermittent phone reception/mobile data, a very bad picture started to emerge. The town was completely cut off, with massive slips covering the roads out in all directions. But really we knew so little about what was happening, which was the scariest part.
We tried to let friends and family know we were ok. Then we spent a very long night trying to sleep in the car. I say trying because Roo was much too excited to sleep and spent her time talking and wiggling until she finally fell asleep at 5am.
I got maybe 20 min sleep after that, before the rising sun and the leaving cars woke me again. We waited a bit longer to leave in the hope of Roo getting some sleep. She slipt off the seat and actually slept for another hour and a half in the seat well behind the passenger seat!
When we got back to the house (thankfully single story wooden construction), there was surprisingly little damage to the structure. Just lots of smashed plates and pictures fallen off the wall. Two doors were now having issues with opening and closing.
We spent the morning taking turns to sleep and entertain Roo, and trying to remain calm during the aftershocks. The power was off, but we did have cold water. As we had planned to leave that morning, we didn’t have much food.
Phone reception died completely from about 8am to 12.30pm. This was particularly unsettling as contact with our friends and family outside the quake zone was the only way we were getting information.
When the reception came back it was heralded by a cascade of beeping and vibrations from everyone’s phones. I think that was probably the scariest part for our loved ones, when they didn’t hear from us.
When we could talk to people again we found out that the town was setting up civil defence procedures. All shops were closed and the damage was widespread. There was mention of the Army coming in by helicopter and that a navy frigate might be used to get people out. All was quite uncertain though.
I called my midwife, who recommended that we check in with the local hospital to let them know that I was in the area. I was feeling very tired and a bit shaky, but otherwise well. Our biggest fear was that the shock would push me into labour, but I wasn’t feeling anything different from usual.
After we had all had a little sleep, we decided to attempt the drive into town (we were staying about a 3 min drive from the actual town).
The first thing we saw was a large new-build house where a large proportion of the bricks had fallen off the walls and chimney. We found out later that a couple had retired and bought the house as their dream home only a few weeks before 😞.
The road to town was significantly damaged, with parts down to 1 lane as the rest had crumbled away. When we reached the town it was full of people in the streets, with hundreds of cars and camper vans parked on any flat surface (a large park in front of the hospital was covered in camper vans).
We checked in at the hospital just as another significant aftershock hit. We decided to take the forms outside to fill in! I was given a quick check over by a nurse and told to come back if we were worried about anything. My blood pressure was unsurprisingly high for me (I usually have quite low blood pressure), but still within the normal range.
We found out that most of the town was without water, so at least we were lucky there. The local Iwi’s (Māori tribe) Marae (meeting house) had been set up to provide food and shelter for those in need. We decided to go back to the house and try to get Roo to have a nap, then come back to the Marae for dinner.
As we drove back to the house a section of the damaged road was running with sewage. Many houses had visible damage, especially brick ones. Power poles were leaning dramatically and we could see that the seabed had risen.
Roo managed a sleep and then we headed back to the Marae about 5.30pm. A queue of people wound up the drive and out the gates, but as we joined the queue a woman pulled us out and took us to the front for food (being hugely pregnant has it’s perks).
Dinner was a pregnancy food nightmare. It was donated from the local supermarket and was mostly deli meats and salads. However, we were so hungry that I decided to take the risk and eat everything except the room temperature ham and salami.
We tried to find out what was happening with the evacuation efforts and the helicopters, but nobody seemed to know anything helpful. It was clear by this stage the damage to the roads out of town would take weeks, not days, to fix.
We were scared and worried about how we might get out of Kaikoura, and whether we would be able to take our car and luggage. I was concerned about going into labour and being helicoptered out without B, Mum and Roo.
Eventually we headed back to the house to sleep for the night. Roo managed to go to sleep and we followed not long after as we had no candles or torches.
Since this is getting longer and longer I will pause here. See you with Part 3 soon.