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Posts Tagged ‘Christchurch earthquake’

Blog4NZ 21 to 23 March 2011

I know you have all subscribed to a blog about French travel. However, following the tragic events of the last three weeks, my attentions have been drawn to the heartache and hardship on our own Christchurch doorstep. For the next fortnight, French tourism will temporarily take the back seat so that we can all help shed light on the marvels and adventures of travelling in New Zealand. Please bear with me!

The world is in shock that one of the prime tourist destinations in the world could suffer such a harsh blow by Mother Nature, in the form of such a devastating earthquake which occurred on 22 February 2011. My desire has been to ensure that tourists around the world keep coming to New Zealand – just because central Christchurch has been badly damaged, does not mean that tourists should stop coming here. So with three other Kiwi travel writers, we have started our campaign Blog4NZ, which from March 21-23 will saturate social media sites worldwide, with wonderful stories about the beauty and excitement of New Zealand. There is no reason why over these three days we cannot get up to five million readers around the world. While all our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone who has lost someone or something, these stories will tell everyone that New Zealand is still very much ‘open for business.’

Now’s the time for all of you to help out New Zealand in its time of need. I haven’t heard from a lot of you who have subscribed to The French Way Blog, so now would be a perfect opportunity to participate! Simply leave two or three sentences about your favourite holiday destination in New Zealand in the comments section below, or if you’re really keen, submit an article to the Blog4NZ website. Your words will help, and will delight people with your fond memories of our beloved country.

“My task which I am trying to achieve is by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel; it is, before all, to make you see. That, and no more, and it is everything.”
– Joseph Conrad

The colours of New Zealand: still as beautiful as ever!

Photography courtesy of Frédéric Geffroy.

Blog4NZ Facebook Page: Like us!

Organisers of Blog4NZ:

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We have no cars, but for this I’m quite pleased. We can’t drive anywhere and so can’t see the entire destruction of my city Christchurch. Now we don’t even want to watch the TV coverage. One day we will recover our vehicles from the town centre, but we’d rather not see it right now.

We have been shown over the last week how even in the worst of times, you see the best of people, and this has been the most humbling of experiences.

We strive to retain our sense of humour and strive to remain positive. There are no shortages of stories around us, some that make us laugh and many that make us cry.

There was a friend who had parked outside a shop while he bought some provisions. During the quake the building fell down on to his car and flattened it. In desperation he had to get to his young children’s school. On the other side of the road was a Nissan car dealership. He ran over the road and said “quick I must have a car to get my children”. The dealer promptly threw him the keys for the new latest model Nissan and told him to go quickly. No names given, just go! The car was so new it didn’t even yet have number plates!

Then there was the story of the family whose dog ran from the home not to be seen for six hours after the quake, yet when it returned it was leading five other traumatised dogs. The owners looked after these dogs until they could find their owners! A similar story comes from our local traiteur who returned home to find his horses kneeling in a circle in their paddock. We are all affected.

Several times a day now we have a TV briefing from our Mayor and various experts. Supporting these experts we have a person giving the briefing in sign language (for the deaf). My 9 year old nephew visited us yesterday and proudly informed us of all the sign language he had learnt over the last week. He had mastered the signs for earthquake, after-shock, and dust – the only words we need to know at the moment!

Flooding is not something you would think of when you hear of an earthquake, but for much of Christchurch this was a major concern. Liquefaction is where water and silt is forced up through the ground from subterranean aquifers when under intense pressure. Our properties have been inundated with viscous sludge and water. It has been a week of heavy tiring digging clearing our properties. Drains are blocked with this thick sludge rendering drains and sewage systems inoperable. Yesterday I bought a supply of chemical toilets for my neighbours – we were so excited! If I knew a week ago that I’d be out buying a chemical toilet I would not have been laughing or as excited as I am today!!

Everyone knows of someone whose home has been destroyed. A home isn’t the same as a building – a home is where children have been born and brought up, a home is full of love and memories, a home is where all those “first” events take place, first steps, first words, first giggles, first friends.

Devastation is a word being used. It seems impossible to think of how much some people are suffering. We have a parent from school, who in ten seconds on 22 February at 12.51pm lost his home, his business, and his son.

If you are in a position to make a donation to assist our recovery efforts please visit the Red Cross website.

Personally I would like to thank all you wonderful people out there who have been in contact with us over the last week. I feel like I have heard from every person in France, Australia, America, and other countries as well. Your support and best wishes helps us all so much!

Knox Church - one of so many churches destroyed in the Christchurch earthquake.

My local shops in Merivale, Christchurch

My office was just a mess, nothing more. Other peoples' offices were destroyed.

This is the liquefaction sludge being cleared by these wonderful volunteers from my properties. Back breaking work. More than 150,000 tonnes needs to be cleared from Christchurch.

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I was sitting in my office in Christchurch, working away diligently as always, but then everything changed.

Earthquake!

Oh my God, book cases flew across the room, my computer was thrown off my desk. I was grasping at my desk to stop me from being thrown to the floor. I was on my own. Where were my family? Oh God, where were my family?

I sent a text message out to my wife, daughter and son. “are you OK? And I waited.

Those were the longest five minutes of my life as I waited. “I’m OK” came in three times! Phew, we’re OK.

And then one by one they came home! JOY.

We’ve just had a devastating earthquake in my home town, Christchurch. We’re OK, but hundreds and thousands aren’t. The centre of our city, that my great-grandfather and my grand father helped to build has been flattened. But we’re OK.

We’ve had no power for the last ten hours, no water, no sewage, but we are together and OK. There are people trapped in buildings across the centre of our city. Please think of them. There are thousands of homeless sleeping outside tonight (in the rain). Please think of them. On top of all that we are getting quakes every ten minutes which we should be used to, but these are different.

I am lucky to have friends all around the world, and while our power has just come on, I have a moment with internet access to let you know that we are OK. Our Prime Minister has said “we are a city in agony”. My family agree with him.

The days ahead will be sad as we try and understand it all. We have read of so much trauma and sadness throughout the world in the last few weeks, and secretly I’d like things to turn around for the better.

Love to you all!

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Nearly twenty years ago I made a definite decision that  I was to set up a business based on my loves.  I now specialise in French tourism and regularly travel to France to escort tours and look after my various rental properties in France, and check out the various canal boat trips.

At the moment I am in England seeing my 19 year old son before he heads to India to play cricket. I am on my way to escort a tour through France.

It was 5.36pm (here in the UK) on Friday when I was driving through a typically narrow lane in Kent when my phone rang. “Dad, help me, my country is falling apart” my darling daughter chockingly (hysterically!) screamed. “Please can you get someone to help me”. She could barely breath with terror. What does a father do?

My daughter had just experienced the most traumatic event of her life as a major earthquake shattered the peace of our hometown Christchurch. No power, no lights, nothing!

She was alone. Dark. House dancing off its foundations. Masonry falling in our house through our normally tranquil lounge, and objects flying everwhere. “I thought I was going to be killed by a flying book” Sarah jokingly exclaimed having experienced this life changing experience. After several minutes of terror Sarah and the rest of Christchurch could assess the terrible damage that had struck them. The centre of town has been decimated by the power of this earthquake – I think it needs a name like a tropical storm! Thankfully there have been no fatalities, but one of our friends is fighting for his life in critical care at the moment, and we constantly think of him.

Following the earthquake the internet coverage made things so helpful. From the other side of the world we listened to constant radio coverage on NewstalkZB, to familiar voices of our radio hosts, as well as the Mayor of Christchurch, Bob Parker, who comfortingly talked the citizens through this disaster. For us so far away we thank them.

To be separated from your loved ones at such times is desperate. Even when things are all good I struggle with these separations.  When I started my business, which I like to describe as “the best job in the world”, every trip away to France was an emotional wrench for me as I regularly left behind those that I loved. I don’t mind admitting that I regularly cried myself to sleep in their absence while alone on tour in France.

Nearly twenty years later it’s not as hard, except at times like this. Next month I will have a son working in India, a daughter in New Zealand, and I will be here in France with my wife! Our blessing these days are the communications that are on offer to us making these separations completely bearable! Even during the quake I had contacted other family in Christchurch, and within minutes Sarah had been “rescued” from our home, and whisked away to the comfort of family.

There are always good things that come out of bad. Over the last few days I have been inundated with messages of love and concern from our friends and hotel staff throughout France and from my travel “clients” alike.

I’m pleased that those two minutes of terror are over, and feel blessed that our families are safe and well – buildings can be rebuilt, but lives can’t.

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