Sunday 20 January 2019

I feel powerless to help my loved ones on far side of world

WHEN you live on the other side of the world by choice rather than necessity, you fear for the day when horrific news reaches you that your country and loved ones are in trouble.

Suddenly you feel powerless to do anything.

It is a sickening and isolating feeling.

Growing up just south of Christchurch city, what I knew about the so-called earthquake 'Pacific ring of fire' fault lines or Richter scales would have hardly taken up a solitary page in a Kiwi schoolboy's geography book.

Yes, we have had a long history of earthquakes, the most significant being in 1931 taking the lives of more than 200 people.

And yes, there was the odd tremor here and there, but they were generally confined to the unoccupied Fiords or along an earthquake belt that hugged the mountains and weaved its way around Wellington and the central part of the North Island.

Like a lot of things, what didn't affect me directly didn't really worry me.

After all, Christchurch was hardly on the San Andres Fault line.

But in just six short months this has all changed, Christchurch has now made the world's front-page news twice with two sizable earthquakes.


It now seems a miracle that September's tremor, while registering a massive 7.2 on the Richter scale, at least left lives intact.

It happened in the middle of the night when the city centre was deserted. This time we were not so lucky, the quake hit at the worst possible time -- midday -- and was far more potent than the last one coming closer to the earth's surface.

Prophets of Armageddon, the end of the world or global warming will point to the floods in Brisbane, tsunamis in the pacific and now earthquakes, saying something is seriously out of kilter.

When I awoke yesterday morning, like a lot of expat Kiwis around the world I was devastated at the images being beamed around the globe from my hometown.

Christchurch Cathedral, once proud in this quintessentially English of cities, was now a pile of ancient rubble.

My first thoughts obviously turned to my parents, friends and relations as I tried desperately to call home while the lines jammed up.

I thank God that my family is safe, although my mother had only just missed the epicentre of the quake.

I then spent the day emailing or facebooking friends from school and university that I knew worked in the city centre.

I am still awaiting confirmation that they have all survived, as many people still are unaccounted for. It is terrible just not knowing.

When I got off the phone, although relieved, it again dawned on me how difficult it was being so far away from home, and how absolutely helpless I felt.

I guess I have always known deep down that should something like this happen that I am still at least a day or two from being able to act, that is a hard thing to come to terms with.

My prayers go out to all those who have lost loved ones in my country's darkest hour, and my thoughts are also with those who like me who feel powerless to help.

But as a proud New Zealander if I cannot be there in person, I am at least home with them in spirit.

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