Just a quick word to let everyone know that Karen and I (and our friends Mark and Dana) are safe and well in the aftermath of the earthquake. Karen and I were downtown and saw the famous downtown cathedral steeple collapse only 50 meters (150 feet) away! Fortunately, we had just sat down to review some paperwork before going into the tall building with the immigration office to turn in some visa extension paperwork. It was a terrifying few moments. The buildings were swaying, people were screaming and hugging each other, glass was shattering, and buildings began crumbling everywhere. What we saw later was even worse. The scariest thing is that we both thought about going to visit the cathedral after we completed the paperwork!
[UPDATE - PHOTOS ADDED and read our full story of the experience.]
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Many buildings we saw, as we tried to carefully walk out of the city without getting near tall buildings, were just piles of rubble. Multi-story buildings were just crumbled. Every building had signs of damage – mostly glass and facades that had fallen. Water mains were busted. Sewage flowing through the streets. People were everywhere – it happened at 1 PM just after lunch on a crowded weekday. We saw a very injured man dragged out of rubble. We saw other injured people being attended to by others. We saw groups of people working to remove people from cars crushed by building materials.
There were still many tremors and at least one very strong aftershock.
We managed to get back to the apartment and found Mark and Dana in the nearby park sitting away from the trees. A few hours later we took a chance and went into the building and got our few remaining belongings out so we could leave Christchurch.
I will describe more details later and upload a bunch of photos we took of the cathedral collapse, and the city as we left.
Again – we are safe. Thank God! We are leaving town now.