Earthquake a shocking welcome

Midweek reporter: Sven Herselman
Midweek reporter: Sven Herselman

For a South African arriving pretty much fresh off the boat in New Zealand and moving to Blenheim just under two weeks ago, there have been a couple things to get used to.

The freezing weather and occasionally difficult to understand but very friendly Kiwi accents are two that I have been slowly getting used to.

Nothing, however, could prepare me for the earthquake on Tuesday night last week.

My wife and I have, of course, heard of the tremors that are felt in different parts of the country.

We have also taken a "ride" in the earthquake simulator at the Auckland Museum, but experiencing one in real life was easily the most unnerving experience of our lives.

I was watching TV while my wife took a shower when the tremors started.

At first I thought it was a boy racer driving past with his bass speaker turned to max volume, but when the vibrations and low rumble continued I realised it was something altogether different.

I had been secretly keen to experience an earthquake, just so that I could know what it was like for myself, but by halfway through Tuesday night's episode I had changed my tune.

More than anything it was the low rumble, being generated by the very earth itself, that was most frightening, and I can only imagine the terror of a big quake like those that devastated Christchurch.

I got up to check on my wife just as the biggest jolt hit.

The shower probably isn't the most ideal place to experience your first earthquake, but after a quick check to make sure she was OK I rushed for the most expensive thing I could think of that might fall over - the TV.

I'll probably get some flak for putting a reassuring hand on man's digital best friend rather than being at my wife's side, but one does strange things when faced with a totally unknown situation.

All's well that ends well though.

New Zealanders are well aware of earthquakes, but many still don't know exactly what earthquake hazards there are in their area, or what to do during one.

A new website has now been launched though to provide just this sort of information.

The site,, is part of the New Zealand ShakeOut campaign, which aims to educate residents on what to do during a quake – namely to drop, take cover and hold until the earthquake stops.

As it turns out, running to secure my beloved flat screen was not the correct course of action.

The ShakeOut campaign aims to have one million people take part in an earthquake drill at 9.26am on September 26.

The website also gives a great deal of earthquake-related information on the various regions in New Zealand as well as links to other related websites.

For example, the site explains that Marlborough is in one of the more seismically active areas of the country and is home to the major set of faults often referred to as the Marlborough Fault System - the northward extension of the Alpine Fault.

This significant fault has the potential for generating an earthquake of magnitude eight or more, and there is a significant possibility that it will rupture in the next 50 to 100 years.

Sobering news indeed, but all the more reason to know what to expect and what to do should a quake strike.

The Marlborough Express