Living in an Earthquake City

From growing up in a geologically stable country, to living in an earthquake-prone one is a massive change which I am still adjusting to. The constant reminder of potential disaster, the warnings, the community effort and solidarity, all merge to make this an interesting way of life.

I was born and raised in South Africa. It must be one of the least prone places on the planet when it comes to natural disasters. No earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, or hurricanes. Ok, maybe a flood or two if there’s too much rain, but you get my drift.

A few years back, me and my little family moved to Wellington, New Zealand. What a wonderful, beautiful place. However, we’ve had to make a major adjustment in the way we go about our lives. In everything we do and everywhere we go, we have had to become ‘earthquake aware’.

Everything needs to be viewed from a potential natural disaster perspective. Where’s the nearest emergency exit? Is this place high enough in the event of a tsunami? Where is the nearest wall or table to “Drop. Cover. Hold”? These questions might seem far-fetched, but it is the way of life here.

The constant reminder of what could happen is extremely prevalent. TV Ads, posters, the regular earth tremors, even employer safety checks don’t abate the potential for earthquake. But that is also the intense positive side.

These things have helped me prepare. Prepare for the ‘big one’. Prepare to survive days without electricity or water. Prepare for what to do if something were to happen. Without these warnings and tips, I wouldn’t feel as comfortable as I do now. My bags would’ve been packed long time ago.

Since being here, I’ve experienced a number of smaller tremors every 3 to 6 months. However the swarm of Cook Strait quakes over the last few days (including 3 of them being over 5 on the Richter scale) have brought earthquake living and emergency preparation joltingly to the forefront of my mind.

I think it’s time to get that emergency kit going.

Surprisingly, living with this constant subconscious thought that this city could be razed at any minute, has not dampened my willingness to live here. New Zealand, and Wellington in particular, really has so much to offer.

After this last weekend, I feel a strong undertone from the people of this city?—?that we will persevere in the event of disaster. When the going gets tough I just know deep down that we will work together. This was seen when Christchurch was devastated by an earthquake in 2011. This was seen in June this year when Wellington was hit by its worst storm in 37 years. And it will be seen when we’re rebuilding this little capital brick by brick sometime in the future.

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