When will it end?

Liquefaction is apparent in this aerial photo of the Burwood-New Brighton area of Christchurch...
Liquefaction is apparent in this aerial photo of the Burwood-New Brighton area of Christchurch after a swarm of earthquakes hit the city yesterday. Photos by NZ Herald.
Christchurch residents are reeling in shock yet again after a series of sharp earthquakes and aftershocks struck the city yesterday.

The 5.8 magnitude earthquake at 1.58pm and the 6.0 shake at 3.18pm caused relatively limited damage to buildings, gardens and roads, but the emotional damage has been huge, with many saying they have had enough.

Those who have lived through almost constant seismic activity over the past 14 months are wondering if the earthquakes will ever end.

"They are horrible, and they just don't stop," Barrington resident Carol Gregory said.

Residents try to free a car stuck in a liquefaction sink hole in Bower Ave, Parklands.
Residents try to free a car stuck in a liquefaction sink hole in Bower Ave, Parklands.
"I've repeatedly asked when they would end and had been assured they would. I really, really thought they were over.

"I thought 'cool, we've got through this'. And now ...

"I don't know that they are ever going to end. They are never-ending. I've lost faith."

The first of yesterday's quakes was "a whopper", Mrs Gregory said, although she could tell it was not as large as the September or February earthquakes.

Christmas shoppers fled for cover as shopping malls swayed and office workers dived for cover under their desks.

All major malls were closed and pre-schools evacuated.

Traffic chaos returned to Christchurch as people left work early, even as major new holes reportedly opened up on Broadhaven Ave.

Phone networks jammed as distraught callers sought reassurance that their loved ones had survived.

Lines company Orion said 26,000 customers initially lost electricity, and the foul smell of sewage hung heavy in the Woolston area.

Thankfully nobody was killed this time and injuries were only minor. Four people were rescued from a rockfall inBoulder Bay.

A "significant" rockfall hit Redcliffs and a stopbank on New Brighton Rd collapsed. Two buildings fell down - one already partly demolished on the corner of Barbadoes and Kilmore Sts, the other a vacant house.

Christchurch airport was shut for the afternoon as a precaution, disrupting many Christmas travel plans. It was given the all-clear and reopened by early evening but significant delays and some flight cancellations were expected.

The Christchurch City Council established an Emergency Operations Centre, and the Civil Defence bunker at the Beehive was activated.

Federated Farmers wanted to hear from farms that lost utilities or suffered damage.

Prime Minister John Key, Labour and the Greens all expressed sympathy and sent their best wishes.

The anxious folk of the garden city have now been told by seismologists to expect aftershocks to rumble on right through the Christmas holiday period, tapering off over the next week.

People were in "absolute terror" after the first earthquake, former Dunedin woman Maree Moss said. 

As she tried to drive from her Ferrymead office to her home at Charleston, on the outskirts of the CBD near the AMI Stadium, her path was blocked by hundreds of people who had streamed from restaurants and bars at the Ferrymead shopping centre and congregated on the road.

"I could see the look of absolute terror on people's faces." 

Ms Moss, who moved to Christchurch four years ago, said she was emailing Christmas messages when the first earthquake struck.

"Only three staff were still there. We were holding on and the place was rocking and rolling.

"Then we said: 'Oh my God, it's not stopping'. The other two curled up under their desks but I just stood there. We were shocked."

A second earthquake struck as they were running down the stairs. Ms Moss said it was strong enough to throw them off balance.

She said no-one she knew in Christchurch thought the earthquakes were over. Sarno Yambasef, his wife Jean, their daughter Evie (6) and autistic son Dante (3) were in their living room planning a children's Christmas eve party when the first tremor struck.

"It was pretty violent. The whole house seemed to lift off its piles," Mr Yambasef said. "It felt worse than a 5.8."

The family live on Wainoni Rd, Avondale, site of some of the worst liquefaction yesterday.

The couple moved into the house soon after the quake in September 2010. Fifteen months of aftershocks pushed them to breaking point. Now they have had enough.

"We don't know what to do, but we can't stay here," Mr Yambasef said.

"The liquefaction is just too much to deal with. The smell of sewage is awful. It reeks in the hall and bedroom. The walls are cracked. The [liquefaction] vein runs diagonally through the house."

Yesterday's damage came only days after the family had regained basic services for the first time since February's lethal quake.

"The sewerage was off for seven months and only last week was it officially fixed. They took our Portaloo away last Friday. It's unbelievable."

A few doors down, Judah Matenga (43) was wading through the liquefaction in his front yard and coming to a similar conclusion.

The family are fresh from a holiday in Australia. Now they are planning to return - permanently.

"That's the plan, move to Oz," said Mr Matenga.

"This is the last straw, really. Christmas still has to go ahead, but after that we'll be out of here."

Experts predict the Yambasefs and Matengas will be joined by many others.

The ANZ Bank was accused of pessimism after predicting the September 2010 quake would prompt 5% of the city's population to leave.

Chief economist Cameron Bagrie said yesterday that figure "seems too light" and the final tally could double.

"That has massive consequences for infrastructure, networking, the whole capability of the city."

Former Dunedin man Peter Constantine was in a cafe in Merivale when the first quake struck.

"You could hear glasses and bottles smashing on to the floor. Everybody dived under the table or ran outside," he said.

When the second quake struck he was outside and parked cars "looked literally as though someone was jumping on them" and a cellphone tower was "really shaking".

People evacuating bars and malls were "all quite nervous".

Otago Daily Times advertising department staff member Sheree Callender said the earthquakes were "awful, absolutely awful".

She was in her sister's swimming pool in the northeastern suburb of Parklands when the first earthquake hit.

It felt like a tsunami, she said.

"When you got to the edge you were sucked back into the middle."

She and her sister got five children out of the pool. All were very frightened, especially Ms Callender's son Jackson Douglas (7).

"He had never experienced an earthquake. He was terrified."

She was sitting on a deck chair comforting Jackson when the next big quake hit. Both were thrown on to the deck but were uninjured.

Inside, a large television fell out of a cabinet and many ornaments and pieces of crockery were broken. The house did not appear to be damaged, she said.

The earthquakes were another blow to the Acquisitions gift stores at Riccarton, Palms, Northend and Eastgate malls owned by Dunedin couple Richard Thomson and AnitaCessford.

In an email yesterday, Mr Thomson said all four of the Christchurch stores were closed and he expected the losses would be close to $100,000.

- Additional reporting by APNZ



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