Wellington fucked in an earthquake

July 5th, 2012 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Katie Chapman at Stuff reports:

A big quake could leave Wellington cut off from the rest of the North Island for four months, new disaster predictions show.

It could take 40 days to restore the water supply to even a basic level, while road access could take up to 120 days, according to “worst case” predictions presented to the region’s Civil Defence Emergency Management Group.

That could leave Wellington residents or commuters trapped in the city for months, and dependent on water rations being distributed by authorities for about six weeks.

The predictions relate to a quake of magnitude 7.5 or higher, and come after a magnitude-7 quake off Taranaki on Tuesday.

Basically we are very fucked if the big one strikes. I’m just 200 metres away from the local New World, so in the event of the big one, I’ll be looting shopping for supplies as quickly as I can, and then probably pitch my emergency shelter tent in Katherine Mansfield Park. Rather than rely on authorities for water rations, I’ll do a daily trip to the Kaiwharawhara stream for fresh water.

By coincidence there is going to be a nation-wide drill in September called the New Zealand ShakeOut campaign. The Ministry of Civil Defence & Emergency Management want to get a million people involved in it, so I’ll blog details close to the time.

They also kindly reminded me that in a quake their advice is to drop, cover and hold – not to flee the building as I did!

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49 Responses to “Wellington fucked in an earthquake”

  1. homepaddock (408 comments) says:

    “I’ll do a daily trip to the Kaiwharawhara stream for fresh water” – and when the stream is polluted by sewerage as happened in Christchurch?

    [DPF: I have my old Scout primus for boiling water on!]

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  2. XChequer (298 comments) says:

    Is it really any surprise, David? The authorities have said for years that Wgtn would cop it badly. Look at how many property owners in Wgtn have moved to quake strengthen their buildings in the last 20 years. Sod all!

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  3. CJPhoto (227 comments) says:

    “They also kindly reminded me that in a quake their advice is to drop, cover and hold – not to flee the building as I did!”

    From what I can tell, there were more buildings in Christchurch were the emergency stairs collapsed in the quake than the building itself.

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  4. Michael Mckee (1,091 comments) says:

    30 days water is probably the minimum we’ll need not 3 days.

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  5. Colville (2,297 comments) says:

    DPF – do you have a water filter? Aquatabs are also a must.

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  6. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    > 30 days water is probably the minimum we’ll need

    There’s plenty of water in wine, so DPF should be ok. :)

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  7. metcalph (1,433 comments) says:

    You don’t need no aquatabs if there’s sewage in your drinking supply. All you need is a stick to push your intestines back in.

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  8. RRM (9,998 comments) says:

    None of this stuff is new, it’s been pretty obvious to people for a long time that Wellington will be very messed up after a major quake.

    You have a white face DPF so surely the world’s media will judge you to be “finding food” rather than looting!

    Not sure I’d drink the water from the Kaiwharawhara stream unless I was boiling it all first… other than that your plan sounds good. (But then, I’m not sure I’d live in an old multi-storey apartment building just a stone’s throw away from the main Wellington Fault trace either…) We have 100 litres of water in bottles under a table by the front door that we refill every year.

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  9. Pete George (23,676 comments) says:

    while road access could take up to 120 days,

    That could leave Wellington residents or commuters trapped in the city for months,

    Have they forgotten those old fashioned things called boats? And aircraft? And legs?

    You could be trapped in that city with no way of getting out other than by foot.

    Someone didn’t.

    according to “worst case” predictions presented to the region’s Civil Defence Emergency Management Group.

    They have to plan for major disruption, but “worst case”? Very difficult to predict how bad it could get.

    Wellington settlers had experienced their first major earthquake on 16 October 1848. The strength of the earthquake was measured at 7.1 on the Richter scale, and was centred in the Wairau Valley, in Marlborough.

    …on 23 January 1855, Wellington was struck by a second major earthquake at 9:11 pm, which measured at 8 on the Richter scale. This was the largest recorded earthquake to have hit New Zealand.

    In the harbour, the water washed in and out in huge waves every twenty minutes by up to several metres, flooding some of the houses on the beach front.

    …the raising of the Wellington coastline, causing a noticeable difference in the level of up to 1.5 metres.

    Large landslips had swept down the sides of the Rimutaka Ranges, and there were gaping fissures in the Wairarapa Plain, some up to 5 metres deep.

    Parts of Wellington were later reclaimed when swamps partly dried out by the effects of the quake were fully drained and built on.

    Another result of the newly-raised land in Wellington was that the shipping basin planned for the city was abandoned and the land used for a cricket ground instead – the Basin Reserve.

    http://christchurchcitylibraries.com/kids/nzdisasters/eqwellington1855.asp

    We can plan for bad and just hope it’s never worse.

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  10. East Wellington Superhero (1,151 comments) says:

    Though it would be tragic – I have friends and family in Wellington (I live in Auckland) – and we hope it doesn’t happen. There would be the silver lining of getting rid of a few govt departments during the rebuild.

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  11. Pete George (23,676 comments) says:

    The frequency of large earthquakes affecting the Wellington Region is therefore much higher, with an average return time of about 150 years for a very strong or extreme ground shaking quake.

    But they also say:

    How do we know which fault is most likely to rupture next in Wellington?

    The reality is that we don’t know for sure which fault is going to rupture next. However we can estimate probabilities based on continuous monitoring and our knowledge of fault rupture histories. We know there are five major faults in Wellington.

    The Wairarapa Fault ruptured in 1855 generating an earthquake of about magnitude 8.2. This fault has a recurrence interval of 1150–1200 years.

    The Ohariu Fault ruptured about 1100–1200 years ago, and has a recurrence interval of 1500–5000 years.

    The Wairau Fault last ruptured more than 800 years ago and has a recurrence interval of 1000–2300 years.

    Shepherds Gully Fault last ruptured about 1200 years ago and has a recurrence interval of 2500–5000 years.

    The Wellington Fault last ruptured between 300 and 500 years ago with a magnitude 7.6 earthquake. This fault produces a large earthquake about every 500 to 1000 years.

    This is how we deduce that the Wellington Fault has the highest probability of rupturing next in the Wellington region.

    http://www.gns.cri.nz/Home/Learning/Science-Topics/Earthquakes/Major-Faults-in-New-Zealand/Wellington-Fault/How-do-we-know-which-fault-is-most-likely-to-rupture-next-in-Wellington

    Just keep practicing but hope the quake on Wednesday night was the big one for this lifetime.

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  12. HB (324 comments) says:

    does anyone know where i could get a copy of the made for tv movie about an earthquake/tsunami happening in Wellington aired on TV3 last year?
    I can see the volcano one based in Auckland here on demand
    http://ondemand.tv3.co.nz/Special-Eruption/tabid/59/articleID/1306/MCat/157/Default.aspx

    but can’t find the earthquake one anywhere. It was called ‘Aftershock’

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  13. Lloyd (125 comments) says:

    Every time I visit Wellington, I look around in wonder at the old buildings that your city has, wondering why in the hell you haven’t learned from our tragedy. Old dunger brick buildings killed one of my friends and put another in a wheelchair; your place has more than we used to…
    To mangle an old aphorism, those who do not learn from the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them.
    I hope and pray this is not true for Wellington, I really do. Because if you have a quake like ours, you are far more buggered than (a) you can possibly conceive and (b) anything like we were.
    Oh, and to add a comment to those who talk about stop, drop and hold: bear in mind that falling facades killed many in Napier in 1932 and Christchurch in 2011; leaving a building that is still standing is not necessarily a good move.
    But, good luck Wellington, I have a feeling you’re going to need it.

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  14. kowtow (8,711 comments) says:

    Wellington cut off?

    But the US navy have huge ships that could come to our aid………oh wait,we’d tell ‘em to piss off,on principle.

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  15. tom hunter (5,049 comments) says:

    It could take 40 days to restore the water supply to even a basic level, ….

    Well I think that could easily be fixed by allowing the USA to park a couple of it’s CVN’s in the harbour and … oh wait.

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  16. tom hunter (5,049 comments) says:

    kowtow

    snap!

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  17. Grendel (1,003 comments) says:

    and one of the depressing things is that in the aftermath, those who work for themselves and have tried to build their own wealth will be financially rooted and get little assistance, but those who live off the backs of others, will be able to sit back, smoke up, and know their bene will never be stopped and they will be able to claim all sorts of emotional distress and get more money, and demand the gummint get them housing etc.

    its completely rooted. part of the contract for being on the unemployment benefit is that you are immediately a volunteer for civil defence. a disaster happens and those with no job, who are being paid by the state with no gaps immediately get to help clean up, etc. while those with businesses and jobs get to try and reestablish them (if possible).

    but i guess that would be ‘unfair’

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  18. davidp (3,587 comments) says:

    >I’m just 200 metres away from the local New World, so in the event of the big one, I’ll be looting shopping for supplies as quickly as I can

    I was accosted by a Civil Defence representative a couple of years ago. The conversation went like this…

    CD: Do you have an emergency kit.

    David: No. Moore Wilsons is just around the corner from my place. I’ll just loot what ever I need.

    The woman looked at me for about ten seconds.

    CD: Do you have children?

    She was probably worried that if you take children looting then they’ll come home with chocolate and Star Wars action figures, rather than tins of beans and bottled water.

    Some people have an emergency kit and won’t loot. But they’re not the ones that will come through an earthquake with a brand new 50 inch plasma television and a bag full of iPods.

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  19. Inky_the_Red (761 comments) says:

    Until the first quake in Christchurch I never really knew the importance of water. I now have 7 or 8 days worth of it.

    3 days was plenty in February as water distribution centres were set up by then. Just don’t expect to have drinkable tap water quickly after a big disaster. Also be prepared to have no electricity or articulated gas for months. So you need back up options to cook and the contents of freezers will go off

    Most people need to be able to look after themselves and family (and neighbours) and not rely on emergency services as they have to look after the vulnerable first.

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  20. Graeme Edgeler (3,289 comments) says:

    But the US navy have huge ships that could come to our aid………oh wait,we’d tell ‘em to piss off,on principle.

    King Gerry has the power to over-ride our nuclear free laws :-)

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  21. RRM (9,998 comments) says:

    Grendel –

    I’m planning to round up all the local beneficiaries and use them as a chain gang bringing water down in buckets from the reservoir on the top of Wright’s Hill.

    When they get too tired & sick to work any more and fall over, my special elite beneficiaries (or “Sonder-beneficiaries” as I like to call them) will throw the beneficiary corpses on the cooking fire that we’ll keep permanently burning out the back. It will be a triumph of right-wing thought and the survival of the fittest…

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  22. hmmokrightitis (1,595 comments) says:

    DPF, as I think the Whale tweeted the other night when the 7.0 hit, youre in an apartment, lie down next to the fridge and pray, thats your best chance :)

    We keep our emergency kit up to date. The kids know if it hits and their at school, Mum or Dad will get there. If Im not home, hell, Ill run back from Auckland or Wellington to New Plymouth. Might take a couple of days.

    Also have a rifle as part of the emergency kit. For zombies. Be prepared people :)

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  23. kowtow (8,711 comments) says:

    tom hunter,
    great minds and all that. :)

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  24. anonymouse (720 comments) says:

    i’ll do a daily trip to the Kaiwharawhara stream for fresh water.

    Why walk so far, when you could go round to John’s place,

    There is a natural spring up the hill from Premier House, (in fact it was the original source of Wellington’s water supply)

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  25. thedavincimode (6,861 comments) says:

    Get a chest feezer and ensure it’s filled it with ice. When the power goes, you can feed beer into the freezer at whatever rate is required to fuel consumption.

    In a severe emergency, you should take care to minimise the frequency of opening the freezer. That can be done by removing two or even three bottles at a time. Depending on the ambient temperature, it may be necessary to increase the speed of consumption for the first one or two bottles consumed. Consider the use of a chiller bag or even polystyrene bottle holders for bottles removed pending their consumption, but don’t waste the ice by putting it in the chiller bag. You are better to increase your speed of consumption rather than waste precious ice.

    If you are having a party, resist the temptation to put half the ice into a bath unless you are absolutely sure that power will be restored.

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  26. davidp (3,587 comments) says:

    hmmokrightitis >Also have a rifle as part of the emergency kit. For zombies. Be prepared people

    When I lived in Australia, the government’s list of things to keep in your emergency kit included dog food. I think the idea was to feed it to bands of marauding dingos so they wouldn’t tear you to pieces.

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  27. Viking2 (11,540 comments) says:

    Graeme Edgeler (2,432) Says:
    July 5th, 2012 at 11:59 am

    But the US navy have huge ships that could come to our aid………oh wait,we’d tell ‘em to piss off,on principle.

    King Gerry has the power to over-ride our nuclear free laws :-)

    Wellington doesn’t have a King. It does have lots of queens though.

    And Annette Fran and the dip witch they have now will never let Gerry take over.

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  28. tom hunter (5,049 comments) says:

    It will be a triumph of right-wing thought …

    Funny, that scenario sounds more like one of the infamous White Sea-Baltic Sea Canal labour camps – and rather than “Sonder-beneficiaries”, I think you mean “Zeks”.:

    “Canal Army soldier! From your hard work your prison term will melt!”

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  29. Viking2 (11,540 comments) says:

    Nothing at all new. We were taught all this stuff in primary school at Petone way back in a past life.

    Of course they may not have taught this stuff in the higher education schools of Wellington.

    An engineer fellow I know here moved from Wellington to here after designing the bridges over the Hutt Mway. Reckons they are the safest places to be.

    And There would probably be no walking to Kaiwharawhara as the hills would come down on the roads. Remember Lyttleton. No , fucking short memory then.

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  30. Inky_the_Red (761 comments) says:

    Strange thing about earthquakes is they break things and more stuff about. Springs that were in one spot might not work any more. Concrete reservoirs might resemble sieves The local supermarket might not be arranged the same way you remember it

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  31. OECD rank 22 kiwi (2,753 comments) says:

    One way to combat the effects of Earthquakes is to live in Australia. Have you considered that?

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  32. iMP (2,413 comments) says:

    When the biggy hit us in SE Chch it took out all the local supermarkets (New World, Countdown) [they are now empty lots] as well as the bridges that gave access, and within 24 hrs there was no bread (no deliveries could get thru). Soo, you have to store your own tinned or dried foods somewhere dry and accessible. I would also recommend you store a big container of water with a tap. As well as flour.

    Wellington is just the worst place I would want to be in a biggy – it will be a protracted disaster.

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  33. Grendel (1,003 comments) says:

    RRM, do you think its ‘fair’ that people with jobs in teh private sector are likely to lose income as businesses are unable to pay them, but those on benefits and public servants will be paid regardless?

    is it not a fair trade off that as part of you not having to worry about getting money you are volunteered to help with the clean up? you are supposed to be job hunting but there wont be any jobs, so doing work in disaster clean up at least partially fulfills your obligation on the unemployment benefit.

    or is doing anythign but continue to pay them for doing nothing ‘not fair’

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  34. RRM (9,998 comments) says:

    Grendel – were you paying any attention at all during the Feb 2011 Lyttelton quake and immediate aftermath?

    What Govt financial assistance was immediately offered to wage earners and businesses?

    [Hint: There was some. A lot actually.]

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  35. Paulus (2,656 comments) says:

    The ferries are built to enable them to be linked to the electricity system.
    Parliament will go to temporary home in Palmerston North – poor sods.
    Michael Fowler used to stop us in the street and talk about retrofitting buidings which was being done at the time. (he also collected $10 from each of us to his city sweepstake – never saw any prizes though – can’t remember what it was for but believe quake related).
    I had a Council schedule of all building requiring strengthening – Cuba Street area was the worse, I remember.

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  36. mikenmild (11,557 comments) says:

    I’m pretty sure Wellington is safe for the next 20-50 years. Ken Ring told me so.

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  37. boredboy (250 comments) says:

    You don’t hear a lot from that Ken Ring chap these days, do you?

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  38. Dazzaman (1,143 comments) says:

    They also kindly reminded me that in a quake their advice is to drop, cover and hold – not to flee the building as I did!

    Probably sound advice but I’d doubt I’d stick around in what would effectively be several rows of giant dominoes.

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  39. Mr_Blobby (189 comments) says:

    Politicians and bureaucrats cut off from the rest of us for months. This is bad how.

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  40. iMP (2,413 comments) says:

    Interesting that during the Blitz, Churchill asked Treasury to immediately pay out and in full, small London shop owners and residents whose homes or livelihoods (or both) were destroyed by Nazi bombs. Treasury had a fit, then obfiscated, but eventually an insurance scheme was devised that worked.

    Churchill felt that all UK taxpayers should shoulder the loss of the few, as we “are all in this together.” Quite Socialist, I think sound. I suppose origin of the EQ & War levy.

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  41. Lindsay Addie (1,578 comments) says:

    A serious question, does anyone know roughly how many URM (unreinforced masonry) buildings are currently in the CBD in Wellington.?

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  42. hj (7,059 comments) says:

    Churchill felt that all UK taxpayers should shoulder the loss of the few, as we “are all in this together.” Quite Socialist, I think sound. I suppose origin of the EQ & War levy.
    ….
    “Churchill also said:

    Roads are made, streets are made, services are improved, electric light turns night
    into day, water is brought from reservoirs a hundred miles off in the mountains —
    and all the while the landlord sits still. Every one of those improvements is effected
    by the labour and cost of other people and the taxpayers. To not one of those
    improvements does the land monopolist, as a land monopolist, contribute, and yet by
    every one of them the value of his land is enhanced. He renders no service to the
    community, he contributes nothing to the general welfare, he contributes nothing to
    the process from which his own enrichment is derived. (Winston Churchill, 1909,
    quoted by Barker 2003, p. 116).

    Quite Socialist, I think sound.

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  43. hj (7,059 comments) says:

    I wonder how Wellington’s big buildings would hold out? They are a little close together aesthetically. The engineer checking the CTV building (apparently) spent 4 hours checking but didn’t see anything amiss, so, how much can we rely on engineers , especially if they are compromised by owners wishes.

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  44. noskire (842 comments) says:

    One absolute necessity for your survival kit is a brick. When sewerage services do eventually start to come back on, you will need to place this on the closed lid of your toilet seat to prevent some very nasty surprises – did I mention backwash?

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  45. mara (794 comments) says:

    Any survivors could do worse than board a crappy old boat and head to Australia. Within 5 minutes of departure from Wgtn’s ruined shores, they’d have the Aust. navy steaming full tilt to rescue and “welfare” them.

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  46. Michael Mckee (1,091 comments) says:

    We’re not too badly off.

    24x 20lit water carriers for drinking water, (the harbour is 100m away for washing).
    Dustbin for the privy in the back garden.
    dried and canned food for 30 days for 4.
    Candles and solar lights.
    portable gas cooker and barBQ.
    House on bottled gas.

    so we should be ok initially.
    Got three oldies around us to look out for and the immediate neighbours are all good sorts including a builder.
    Only problem is if we have a tsunami or worse.
    certainly not expecting too much help for first 7 days.

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  47. MT_Tinman (3,246 comments) says:

    RRM (4,946) Says:
    July 5th, 2012 at 12:57 pm
    Grendel – were you paying any attention at all during the Feb 2011 Lyttelton quake and immediate aftermath?

    What Govt financial assistance was immediately offered to wage earners and businesses?

    [Hint: There was some. A lot actually.]

    Nope! Not a lot!

    For my business a sum below weekly fixed costs for six weeks (The business lost money 9 out 12 months following the Feb 22 earthquake).

    Beneficiaries did well though

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  48. V (742 comments) says:

    And I wonder if in such a situation our anti-nuclear legislation would be dropped before lunchtime so that a nearby US aircraft carrier can sail in and provide it’s 1.25 million L water distillation/desalinisation plant capacity.

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  49. V (742 comments) says:

    @Paulus
    Is that true? At the first sign of trouble the pollies bugger off to Palmerston North?

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