Issue 39 – Southern Aikido Connection

A Few Thoughts

The curse is “may you live in interesting times” – unfortunately we do. Christchurch has been hit by a damaging series of earthquakes since 4 September 2010. I am conscious that we hadn’t put out a magazine for some time but recent events have left us little ability to concentrate on matters other than earthquakes. So for this issue we concentrated on the quakes and the effects on our people at Aikido Shinryukan Canterbury.

The initial quake on 4 September 2010 and which began this series was measured at 7.1 on the Richter scale. It actually caused relatively minor damage and no fatalities. We congratulated ourselves on our building standards and preparedness. We learnt about new items such as “liquefaction” [a mix of sand, water and mud which rises to the surface and has blanketed swathes of the eastern suburbs], and “munted” [ie broken by the EQ].

Our relative smugness was then shattered in the subsequent EQs. December 26 though only 4.9 on the Richter scale was directly beneath the city and caused more damage. Although much smaller it was strongly felt because of its proximity.

February 22 was 6.3 on the Richter scale and centred just east of the city. It was very shallow and caused vertical acceleration greater than 2G. This was the most violent EQ ever measured to hit an urban area. And though only 24 seconds long, it was around 180% stronger than the building code provided for and destroyed much of the city centre also causing major damage to the eastern suburbs. The amount of liquefaction this time was about 20 times greater than September, buildings were demolished and there were many fatalities.

June 13 was 6.3 and situated just west of the city, more liquefaction, more building damage, more power outages, more loss of water and sewerage, just more…

Christchurch during the February Quake, taken from the Port Hills

Since September we have experienced many aftershocks, almost 8000 in total. As well as damage to buildings, some areas have had long periods without power, sewerage and water. In the east there have been periods when there were no service stations, schools, community facilities or supermarkets. The central commercial area of Christchurch has been closed since February.

We wanted to put out a magazine but frankly could not focus on purely aikido matters as issues related to the EQs take up such a large proportion of our time that we thought instead to tell you some of our experiences and stories. These include losing homes, businesses, jobs, the search and rescue and our reactions. I hope what it shows is that we at ASC are a resilient bunch; aikido binds us together and sustains us. We are bent but not broken. ASC not only survives but will thrive.

The first shock on September 4 hit in the early hours of the morning. We knew immediately that it was a major shock but with electricity cut there was little to do until daylight. The cellphone network was ok and so for the next few hours I txted as many people as possible including aikido people to check their welfare. Over the next few days and the subsequent aftershocks I was humbled by the many messages & offers of support from students and friends from around Christchurch, NZ and abroad – I thank you all for this.

In September after establishing no one was hurt it became clear several people lost homes and businesses. We rallied a team to help digging liquefaction at several aikidoka’s [past & present] places as well as generally in the eastern suburbs. That has been one of the major tasks in each of the earthquakes although it has been less organised & more spontaneous with each major aftershock. “You know you’re in Christchurch when you are shovelling liquefaction.”

Around the city

With each major quake ASC people have checked on each other, helped with accommodation, shovelling, cooking meals, washing, water and showers. I’m amazed at the support provided to each other. Through it all we have continued to practice excepting for a few days when the dojos either had no power or water or in February when I though the roads so badly damaged that I didn’t want students driving home in the dark. That’s a great effort and I take heart that the future for ASC is bright with members such as this. Thank you.

Car parking damage

Andrew Williamson

The Dojos

The two dojos have survived the quakes well considering their age and construction. We were/are lucky. Many martial arts group occupied older buildings which have failed and they are left without homes. Linwood is the most exposed as it is in the east of Christchurch. Neither were badly damaged in September although we lost power & water at Linwood for a while and had some broken lights and pictures. Burnside was fine and we were back training within a few days. We also housed another group at Linwood for a few months until Christmas as they had lost their dojo.

February 22 was far more significant. Burnside was fine but at Linwood we lost part of the ceiling and far more concerning structurally was the cracking of the concrete blocks in several places. We made an insurance claim but getting the insurance company, loss adjusters, engineers and builders to the same point to agree on rememdial action is a mission in Christchurch at this time.

With each aftershock some of the cracks widened and finally we simply took our best guess at a good solution. Our builders have installed some steel brackets, large galvanised plate and rods to add strength particularly in the western corner. Hopefully insurance will cover it. More work must be done but we are not planning on completing the cosmetic work until this series of quakes abates somewhat. Hopefully we won’t get any more shocks which test the structure significantly. My fingers are crossed.

Andrew Williamson

Home in the Red Zone

(Peter lived in Avonside and lost his home in the quakes – Ed)

4th September 2010

Did you have an earthquake plan in September? We’d decided that the bottom bunk of the boy’s steel-framed bed was the safest place to be so that’s where we ran at 4:35am. I had to clear the boy in the top bunk and luckily for me, it was my youngest and lightest son, Niko. Miguel would have crushed me!

Niko was still fast asleep when I started to lift him so he rolled as a ‘dead weight’ into my body just as the shaking reached its peak. I crashed backwards protecting him so I did the world’s worst ushiro ukemi onto his keyboard and chair. Ouch! At this point he woke up and said “Daaad! What are you doing?!”

The four of us huddled in the lower bunk as the shaking finally ended, and then listened to the house groan and crack like a living thing as it settled into place. We could hear water and I thought the header tank had gone, but it was liquefaction under the house.

We checked that our families were all okay, and then I tried to get outside. At first I thought the front door was locked, but then I realised the house was on a lean and the door was completely jammed. The back yard was a lake of scummy water, the driveway was quicksand, and the road had been torn apart. I checked the neighbours and they were ok, but the whole of Avonside was stuffed.

As many of you know, liquefaction is hard to move. Our wheelbarrow broke so we were using a green recycling bin and an old tarpaulin to clear the driveway. We were pretty tired and dirty, then, out of the blue, the guy from the corner dairy appeared and offered to help. That changed everything. Sounds a bit stupid, but his help made us feel much better.

I remember all the kind acts, some small, some big. All this bad stuff was going on and then someone does something nice and suddenly the world isn’t such a bad place after all. I know that many of you helped clean up. Your physical work made a difference, but the real help was letting people know that they weren’t facing the problem alone, others cared. So thanks to everyone who helped, and continue to help.

The day after, it hit me. We couldn’t live in our house anymore. After 11 years of fixing and renovating, the place was munted. About that time, Andrew contacted me to see how we were and then offered a place to stay on Shirley Road. That was a BIG relief! Thanks Andrew! We stayed there for about a month, waiting to see what would happen with our house.

I spent a lot of time reading our insurance policies and learning about the EQC process. I bet a lot of you have done the same. I didn’t even know that payment for temporary accommodation payments was included in our contents cover, but I’m very glad it was!

I know a lot of people had problems with their EQC inspectors, but ours were great. I heard some of EQC staff were out on the town every night spending the big bucks they were earning (apparently, Manchester Street was very busy!) and turning up for work a bit worse for wear.

They told us that our place was over the EQC cap, would probably be demolished, which is what the insurance company had said. The payment came through about 2 months later, but it went straight to the bank. Maybe they thought we’d run off with it!

Soon after that, we rented an old house in Richmond thinking that we’d be able to start rebuilding on our property in March. Ha ha!

22nd February 2011

Just when we thought Christchurch was recovering, nature kicked us in the teeth!

Ava was in the CBD when this hit, walking from one language school to another. It was a huge relief to get her text message saying she was ok and was going to get the boys. It took me 5 hours to get home. The bridges were closed so I ended up back at our old house on Avonside Drive, which was even more munted.

Richmond was a sea of liquefaction and the house was a mess. The fish tank had toppled and smashed. Dead fish, broken glass, stones and 100 litres of water. Not a happy mix!

The Press had a quake cartoon comparing the recovery to a game of snakes and ladders. Christchurch had just slid down big snake. The day before I’d been at an Avonside community meeting and we were optimistic about our neighbourhood’s recovery. Now it looked worse than ever before. It wasn’t just us, the whole city was affected.

I did a lot of shovelling in the days that followed. It felt good to give back the help I’d received. On the way to clean up Suzi’s place, I saw a teddy bear hanging by a noose with a notice saying “Looter”. I had to explain that to the kids, and what a “rubbernecker” was. I bet most kids in East Christchurch can spell “liquefaction” now! I first encountered in Japan after the Kobe quake, but I never realised it could ruin whole neighbourhoods.

13th June 2011

We’d all just had enough by then, hadn’t we? Fortunately, I’d cycled to work so I could get home without any hassle. Richmond was full of liquefaction again, but we got power and water back within a few hours. Once again, I got the shovel and wheelbarrow out, and helped clean up.

By now, we were sick of the bureaucratic merry-go-round and lack of real progress. Individuals were great, but their ‘organisations’ just weren’t organised. For example, when I tried to get an assessment of habitability for our old house, EQC told me that the city council was responsible, and then the city council told me ECQ was responsible. I’m glad I’m not playing that game anymore!

We were wondering whether we’d ever get back into a home of our own. We’d pretty much written Avonside Drive off, and when rumours of a land announcement started circulating, we hoped our munted place would be included.

On Thursday morning, Ava said the school was full of grey-faced, anxious parents. Everyone was waiting for the government’s decision. The TV reception at work was terrible so I went online, found the land check link, and entered our address with my workmates around me. Red! What a relief! It was like a light coming on, a way out. Of course, the site crashed when John Key announced the web address, but by that time we’d got the red-zone map so we could check other people’s areas. Two workmates from Dallington and another from Burwood were also red.

Although it’s good to know that we can move on, I can’t quite believe that our whole neighbourhood has gone. I’ll miss canoeing down the river with the kids, cycling down the bike path and watching the City to Surf run by.

So what have I learned? People are much more important than things. Friends help friends, and strangers can become friends by helping strangers. And finally, in a crisis, you’ll do anything to protect your kids, even if you end up with a bruised backside!

Peter Clayton-Jones

The New Normal

The new normal is…
The new normal is a shorter commute (working from home) but worse coffee (working from home).
The new normal is keeping a torch by your bed and a bag of clothes in your car.
The new normal is strangers offering you the use of a torch when you drop something in a car park (shamelessly plagiarised from Miria).
The new normal is not having a clue how long any given journey will take.
The new normal is being an amateur seismologist, engineer and town planner. Bonus points for amateur psychology.
The new normal is rolling your eyes whenever someone mentions Ken bloody Ring.
The new normal is playing the “magnitude, depth and location” game with every aftershock.
The new normal is bookmarking geonet in your web broswer.
The new normal is planing a few mm. off one side of a door so it’ll close in a slanted door frame.
The new normal is drinking the good wine because you’re not sure it’ll still be there tomorrow.
And then drinking it from plastic glasses.
The new normal is relief that you have a gas cooker and frustration that some idiot decided you can’t light it without power. Safety feature, my a#$e, grumble grumble grumble…
The new normal is looking at that crack in the wall and wondering if it’s a bit wider than it used to be.
The new normal is never struggling for a conversation topic with strangers.
The new normal is having a drink with neighbours you would just nod and wave to B.T.Q.*
The new normal is not sweating the small stuff, and then realising how bloody annoying the small stuff can be.
The new normal is being on first name terms with your insurer.
Or it would be if EQC ever turned up.
The new normal is not making quite as much training as I should be.
The new normal is watching the Crusaders STILL kick arse.
The new normal is introducing visitors to the joys of a chemical toilet.
The new normal is Bob’s Orange Jacket!!!
The new normal is not washing your car – Ok, I never did that before.
The new normal is inventing new sports like quake-boarding and urban off-roading.
The new normal is not really being sure where you’ll buy that thing that you used to buy in that shop in the CBD.
The new normal is saying “ah well, can’t complain” and then complaining vociferously at every opportunity. 🙂
The new normal is frustration.
The new normal is determination.
The new normal is resignation.
The new normal is acceptance.
The new normal is ultimately unimportant. The same things that mattered before, friends, family, loved ones, still matter more.
*Before The Quake

Colin Grealy

The quake from a RATS perspective

In time of stress it can be quite a relief to have something to do. During the Christchurch quakes I was lucky enough to be deployed to help out as part of a volunteer rescue group.

The background

In March 2010 I decided to find a few new challenges. Through a friend I heard about the RATS group – Rescue And Technical Support. It’s a group that trains twice a week, focusing on first-responder medical work, general rescue (working on rubble piles and up to one storey high), and high-angle rope rescue (rescue at height). There’s also some confined space and swift water rescue training.

The group is one of many response teams throughout New Zealand. The teams train for the just-in-case scenarios when normal emergency services cannot cope. For most teams deployment is an infrequent occurrence, typically during Civil Defence emergencies.

September 2010

I had only been a full member for around two weeks when the 7.3 quake struck before dawn. Within an hour we were deployed and ready for any taskings. With such a large quake we were on standby for medical assistance – we were expecting numerous serious injuries. Miraculously, there were very few injuries and as far as I know, no one died from their injuries.

Chimney safety operations

Over the following three weeks we worked mosty with USAR (Urban Search And Rescue) and the Fire Service. Our main tasking was chimney safety – there were thousands of damaged chimneys around the city, and even the small ones weighed over 500kg. Given the aftershock activity they were considered a significant hazard.

While some chimneys were in a position to be quickly pushed or pulled over, most were dismantled brick-by-brick. Most could be removed in 20 minutes by a group of three or four – we would then do our best to apply temporary weatherproofing (much of which was still around months later) before moving on.

Unofficially it was scrambling over roofs getting to break things made out of bricks. Having reasonable balance and fitness made this a lot of fun. We had numerous aftershocks while working, so had to stay aware of falling chimneys and slipping from the roof (sometimes requiring harnesses and safety lines).

February 2011

I was home in the Burnside area when the February quake struck. It was a big shake and I assumed we would be deployed again – but there was nothing on our side of town to indicate it was worse than the September quake.

We quickly had confirmation that there were numerous injuries and I received a txt from a friend who had witnessed an office building collapse.

We geared up and made our way into the EOC (Emergency Operations Centre). Similar to the earlier quake we spent a lot of time ready and waiting. Incidentally, in mass-casualty situations typically 80% of rescues are done by untrained civilians. Official coordinated rescue efforts perform more difficult rescues, proceeding cautiously and within their defined protocols. This can be surprisingly frustrating, but is rational and part of being a team.

One of the many buildings to be cleared

And the view from inside

On the first day we were tasked to a number of incidences. I was one of four team members selected to enter the partially collapsed PGC building, but the arrival of some heavy machinery ruled out our entry. While waiting I spent time talking with people who still had friends and family in the building.

That first evening our team also helped on the collapsed CTV building. It was a surreal scene and quite hard to believe the collapsed building, emergency lighting, smoke, and rescue workers were real. We had team members talking by cellphone to people trapped in the rubble. [The CTV and PGC buildings were where most of the fatalities occurred – Ed].

We spent the next month working from Latimer Square. It was converted into a rescue village, hosting professional rescue teams from around the world. It was an unusual environment for the international teams too – they normally work in isolation and from their own limited supplies.

Response teams from around the country converged to help out as much as possible. We ended up doing extensive building and car clearances, required to reduce the cordons. Check seriously damaged buildings, while keeping an entire team safe from further aftershocks, is a time consuming process

One of the highlights of the February deployment was the car recovery program – returning cars from within the cordons. These were busy activities (a lot less waiting around) and people appreciated getting back their cars, baby-seats, purses, phones, and shopping after many weeks of waiting. The response teams were tasked with entering the car park buildings and driving out the vehicles, we handed them over to army and police drivers who returned them to the owners. The amount of behind-the-scenes organisation that went into that was staggering.

I like to think that Aikido has helped me handle these deployments in a number of ways. When it’s time to wait then I am able to be (mostly) patient, and when it’s time to do stuff I am able to jump straight in enthusiastically and see what happens. Much like training.

James McNeill

Luciano’s Cafe

Like many other people we have been affected by the earthquake on February 22, we lost our business which was very disappointing for us. On the day of the quake I was working in the café, and it was very busy at that time. It was like a scene from a movie, with people running and tripping over, other people trying to hide under the table. The floor of the Hunter’s Furniture building cracked, opened up, and liquefaction poured through filling the café about 300 mm deep. Not a very nice feeling whatsoever.

In dealing with our insurance for our business we have been reasonably fortunate, despite a few delays and negotiations we have been able to settle our business interruption portion of our insurance. After much searching, a few false starts and many sleepless nights we have found a new location in which we will rebuild our café. This new location is currently under construction and is now scheduled to be completed by the end of August 2011. It’s has been a long journey and we like many others have encountered a few challenges along the way – one such challenge has been finding a café that serves a decent cup of coffee! We still don’t have enough places open at the moment and the ones that are open are very busy but not doing a great job.

I think after the quakes a number of people have either moved away from Christchurch or are seriously considering it, believe me it has crossed my mind to move to Aussie as well. I have received few offers to move to Melbourne but I don’t know if we could leave the life we have spent the past number of years building. In a place like Melbourne I would make more money, however we have built a large customer base here and many have become our friends. Also we have friends here like Andrew & Irene and a number of other members from aikido, from when I first came to Christchurch. For those who were there from my first days here with no English whatsoever, you have supported me and I am very conscious and grateful for that. So leaving such a life is not a decision to be taken lightly or made hastily.

Unfortunately we have also had a few issues with the contents insurance for our house, it’s a long story but I will keep it short. Our insurance for the house and contents are in Melissa’s father’s name and instead of having one bill for both, they sent 2 bills at different times, assuming he had paid both, he left for Brazil. When he came back it was too late, post 4th. of September and our insurance company would not allow us to renew our contents policy despite us having no damage to our contents. Since the end of last year we have been waiting to be able to renew our policy which meant that, for the 22nd February quake, we had no contents cover! So yes we have been arguing with insurance despite having been a loyal customer for over 20 years. The good thing is, if we lost all of our contents, we have a private hotel that we can stay in ( Sarah & James McNeil hotel)..

Luciano & Family

The Lighter Side