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When daybreak revealed the chaotic aftermath of the earthquake that ripped through Kaikoura five years ago, Andrew Spencer did what came naturally, he grabbed his camera.
The 7.8 quake hit just after midnight on November 14 and ruptured along 20 faults - the most on record. It caused extensive ground uplift, triggering the biggest local-source tsunami since 1947 and massive landslides. The town was cut off, stranding locals and a thousand tourists alike.
Andrew roamed the town and his photos became a day-to-day record of what was happening. To mark the fifth anniversary of the quake this month, the photos have been compiled into a book simply entitled Remembering Kaikoura Earthquake.
He tells Nine to Noon he didn’t even look at the photos again until this year as they approached the fifth anniversary.
“My friend at the Paper Plus here, he’s kicked me up the bum all the way through and this year he said, well we’re doing it this year because it’s been five years. I delved into the photos and it was the first time I had really looked.”
He says it was a bit of a painful experience going over the photos.
“There was definitely a few lumps in the throat. A lot of memories of the three people that passed away. A lot has happened in five years. There’s a little boy eating and ice cream and he’s a young man now, a big strapping lad. There are people who’ve left town. A lot has happened.”
Andrew says he and his wife were asleep when the earthquake hit.
“I knew it was an earthquake straight away, just the force of it. You really couldn’t get out of bed and the noise was just overwhelming really.”
He and his wife first checked on their eldest daughter, who was home at the time, and their dog then checked on their neighbours. With all OK, they tried to find somewhere to sleep.
“We all jumped in our bed and that didn’t work, so we jumped in the car for a couple of hours but that didn’t really work either because of the dog, so we ended up back in the house.”
The following day, Andrew began taking photos of the town and surrounding areas and posted some on Facebook. Finding there was a big appetite for pictures, he carried on.
“Everyone was doing their best, it was incredible. And that prompted me to do my best and it was the best thing I could do. It carried on from there.”