In September 2010 in Christchurch, the second largest town in New Zealand, strong earthquake happened (with a magnitude a bit more than 7). Then after several months one more earthquake destroyed almost to the root a calm city of the South Island. We were told about this case by Elena that has been living there for 5 years and, by a twist of fate is a constructing engineer and, of course, knows the worth of destructions and reconstruction.

Earthquakes in New Zealand do not surprise at all, as this is one the most earthquake-prone countries in the world. This country is included into the zone of the Ring of Fire that is around the whole Pacific Ocean; it includes also Japan, New Guinea, western beach of the USA, Chile and etc. Situation in New Zealand is also complicated by the fact that big crust fracture is going through the whole country between Oceanic and Australian plates. So, because of this fracture, one island of New Zealand is located in one plate, and another island is on another plate. In the capital city (Wellington) these two plates cross each other: the one goes up, another goes down, so one plate “runs into” another. That means, in the view of geology, this place is unfavorable.
Christchurch was considered to be not really earthquake-prone region, as it is located quite far from the fracture. But the point is that the influence of this fracture is very significant and whole New Zealand is in cracks. Later it emerged that one more crack does exist. In fact, it is difficult to know about all cracks; normally it becomes known when earthquake happens. Most of them are in “sleeping condition”, they collect energy, and then once - bounce.
When I arrived to New Zealand in 2009, I didn’t know about all details of seismic hazard. In first month I was told: “we expect huge earthquake”. I surprised: “How is that possible for people to lead such a calm life, if they are informed about earthquake?! But, as it turned out, it is possible, even for me. 

First earthquake happened in 4th of September 2010 at 4.30 AM. When it started, I was sleeping and, when I woke up, I immediately understood what had happened. There were no any questions. It was very scary. That time we used to live in a one-floor house, my bed was next to the exit – so, when it started, my legs leaded me outdoors immediately. Only when I ran out, my mind returned to me and thoughts started running in my mind: “God, what am I doing… my neighbor remained there, I have to save her!
Quite often before the shake you can hear noise caused by earth movement. Many people, especially farm-leavers, woke up that day to this sound. But I didn’t hear the noise, and this case was a surprise to me. To be honest, that was scary. This September earthquake was evaluated in 7.3 balls. There were no victims, there were only some destructions in hills where houses are located, and people had slight bruises and grazes.
We were lucky that in happened at 4.30 AM, nobody was in the centre, where the most of old and dangerous (in terms of breaking) buildings are located. Also, epicenter is far enough from the city, in the area of Darfold, about 40 km far from us. So, we got away with a black eye.
Many people immediately left the country. We didn’t sleep next night. I laid up next to the door in a sleeping bag. Although I saw that nothing scary might have happened, but that time I felt real fear. 

That’s amazing, how strong is this occurrence. Amazing. You just get used to the fact that the land is firm and heavy. Here it is shaking with enormous power, it is getting alive, getting wild…it seems to me that it is absolutely impossible to understand through mind. 

As the city almost didn’t suffer after first earthquake, people used to say: “That means, our city has a good karma”. That time we didn’t know what was expecting us.
We all think that after this shock there won’t be anymore and we may calm down. But it should be noted that the most important point is not the earthquake, but aftershock. Aftershocks are shocks that follow after earthquake, they happen a lot and at a time, with different intensity and period type.
After September earthquake shocks of different intensity went on. In our city they were very strong. Even scientists still can’t understand whether these were independent earthquakes or consequences of the first earthquake.  From the geological point of view, everything was too complicated.
I remember, once we had a holiday - Boxing Day (the Day of Presents – December 26). That
day people go to huge molls for sales. We exactly were in big shopping moll when this happened: suddenly books started falling from the shelves. In the places of heavy accumulation of people it is very scary: people start feeling alarm, someone might have absolutely inadequate reaction, right up to convulsions and hysterical throwing to the floor with crying. That time nobody suffered and we relaxed and continued living calmly.

But in February 2011 that famous earthquake happened, which alarmed all Mass Media. It was in February 22, working day. That time I was in India where this news caught me off balance. It was informed that over 100 people had died, and this case put me into bad condition, my boyfriend and my friends were there. It was scary to fly back, the plane was almost empty. All flights were mixed. When I arrived, I saw almost died out city. First days I had a very strange feeling. The central part of the city almost didn’t exist. All businesses were closed down. Local government financially supported local businesses so that they could survive. Someone moved to other regions. Nobody have any idea of what would happen then. Occurrence of such scale is very noticeable, as Christchurch is the second largest city in the country (after Oakland).
Many people were harmed at streets (it happened at lunch time), as parapets of old brick buildings were falling on them. One building broke down completely and almost all people that were there died, including foreigners. Many rescue efforts were done there.
In extreme situations people act in different ways. Normally there are two types of reactions: either catatonia, or they just run before their nose. For example, I just run very fast towards the exit. Here since childhood it is studied how you should act in such situations. It is considered that you should get under the table, hug the floor and grapple something more or less steady, for instance, table leg.
Undoubtedly, people unite in extreme situations, help each other. Before the earthquake I hadn’t ever talked to my neighbors, but afterwards – we got together frequently, visited each other. Christchurch is considered to be very conservative city, even in some sense snobbish. Here people have narrow social circle. So, it is symbolic that earthquake happened particularly in this city. People had to change their stereotypes of behavior, to change their social circle, as old friends left country, and the remaining people had to adjust to the existing conditions. Also people from other countries (from Japan, Australia) came here to help. Because of looting that happened here, even military help was sent here: some streets were cordoned off, in some places people were allowed to enter only with passports.

3 years have passed. And just imagine, people still now are living in garages. Of course, the Government is helping, but not everyone was lucky. In this sense the matter of insurance arises. Most people are insured and they kind of win in this case. For example, insurance company gave money for building new house or for renting for the initial period.
By the way, our city is the example of an interesting consistency: because of earthquake Christchurch have been being changed a lot, having transformed from a boring city with a regular lifestyle into a vivid conglomeration. Many people have come here, things are humming, many foreigners. As everything has been destroyed here, engineers-constructors have become high-demanded, which means that I don’t have any problems with work here.
I am not afraid of earthquakes in Christchurch anymore. This city has overcome very strong power and everything that resisted last time, probably will resist next time. All buildings that could break down, have already broken down. New buildings will be constructed under new standards and with reliable forts.

Most cities of New Zealand have one comprehensive problem because of the fact that they are situated on coast with flimsy ground. Ground is normal till the moment of shaking. But once it happens, ground turns into soup. Houses are banked, and now in those regions it is possible to film something with apocalyptic scenario. Authorities almost do not invest money into this problem solution – it is very expensive. Even in the capital everything is remained as it is. Nobody can give 100% guarantee; nobody knows what the next earthquake will be like, in what direction. So, the only thing that is possible to do is to build more reliable buildings and hope for the best.
Small earthquakes happen here almost every day and we are used to it and don’t notice anymore.

You know, in Russia we used to think that everything is bad there and in other countries life is better, people live there like in paradise. But it is not like that. Moreover, here I have come to accept one important thing: the power of nature. When people disappear, nature will get share of the cake immediately. All roads and buildings will be grassed soon, there won’t remain any trace of past human activity. Incredible.
*Written according to the narrator.

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