I’ve just got back from a trip to my flat, which is smack in the middle of the cordoned zone. As it pertains to my experience, I should tell you that it is a third floor, converted office space which is about 10 metres east along Cashel St from the intersection of that street with Manchester St. I was there during the quake, leaping out of bed to brace myself in the doorframe. Though I don’t know it’s exact age, I suspect it was constructed in the 50’s or 60’s. It’s not the most amazing building to look at, but after a night in it during a 7.1 magnitude quake, I’m not going to be complaining. The building itself seems fine – although I am no engineer. The only casualty we had was a TV, which fell forward from it’s perch, dropping about a metre to the ground. I was dreading looking in the kitchen, where we have a number of somewhat precarious shelving units, however, remarkably, we didn’t lose even a single wineglass.
We got out of the building at around 9:30 am on Saturday morning, when my partner Julia came back from Burwood Hospital, where she had been working nightshift. We attempted to get back into the building twice on Sunday, but were turned away by police. On Monday, I went to the Civil Defence HQ at the Christchurch Art Gallery, and obtained permission to get into the flat. This has allowed me to get into my place, to get my razor and some spare clothes, but also, perhaps more interestingly, allowed me to observe the damage on the streets, that are otherwise only accessible to the authorities and the media.
Today, I made another attempt to get into my flat, though it was far more difficult than the day before (which had been more difficult than the day before that.) Though people seem to be more accepting of the cordon around the central city, the four avenues and other main road are jammed with traffic at the moment, and really are best to avoid. After being turned away at a cordon outside the old Jet Set lounge, we managed get onto Cashel St via another detour. At the checkpoint on the corner of Cashel and Madras, I showed the army people my note and was then let through.
The sheer size of the security operation in the CBD is mind-boggling; on Saturday, I couldn’t believe that the police had any ‘Police Emergency – DO NOT CROSS’ tape left. Now, I’m in awe of all the temporary fences that have popped up. At the one I arrived at, there were four army men, or boys. Baby-faced recruits – some of them look 17 or 18 – who look as confused by the situation as I do. The constant presence of the army, their vehicles, and the police certainly takes the tension up to another level. We get up to the third floor, where there is still no power. We sit in the front room and stare out at the back of the Manchester Courts:
We wait for a while, nothing happens. We notice the crack in the top:
My camera doesn’t have a very good zoom, but if you squint, you can see a crack that runs from the top right, back down at around a 45 degree angle. This is only the back. We wait a while longer, listen to the 5pm news on a walkman, and decide to go. I wander down Liverpool St, to get a little closer. The art deco style Kenton Chambers on the corner of Liverpool and Hereford St has a red sticker – which doesn’t mean that it is a goner, but certainly that it needs a good going over from the engineers. Fingers crossed for that one. Meanwhile, glass and curtains are flying out of windows of Manchester Courts, and plywood is being readied for the ground floor. I can’t see any evidence of explosives, or other things that would be used for demolition. I’d say it will come pretty soon, probably tomorrow, but it will be a big operation.
I am sorry if I misled anyone about the demolition of this building – it will be going down, and I was just following the advice of the council.