The $30m shockwave

21:38, Feb 17 2009
LOST FOR WORDS: Penny Walsh is marooned in a sea of books dislodged at Gisborne Library during Thursday night's earthquake.

After the earthquake comes the devastating cost.

Claims poured in from hundreds of shaken Gisborne residents and retailers yesterday after Thursday's giant quake. The cost of the damage is expected to climb as high as $30 million.

The blow, which made parts of downtown Gisborne look like a war zone, was especially cruel for retailers, falling as it did during the crucial Christmas shopping season.

But the impact was not just financial. One elderly woman had a fatal heart attack and a dozen people suffered minor injuries.

Though most residents spoke of a community pitching in to help its most vulnerable, some retailers reported looting shortly after the disaster.

Earthquake Commission claims manager Lance Dixon said close to 600 claims had been received by last night, and the cost could total $30 million.


The quake may have claimed one life, that of a 78-year-old woman who died from a heart attack as it struck. Woken by the tremors, she was terrified, family said.

Family and friends gathered yesterday at her home, where she had lived with her son.

When the shaking began, Martin McDowell ran for a wall in Briscoes, as boxes fell from the shelves. Another supermarket shopper said when the quake ended, the debris and abandoned shopping carts were "like a scene from a zombie movie".

Sally Wright, of Gisborne Skin and Body Specialists, spent yesterday collecting fallen stock.

"This time of year is when you need to be open. This is the busy, busy time for everybody. But we're positive. We'll move on."

Kim Travers went to check his hair salon and found red dye across the floor. During the quake, he, his partner and two of their children huddled under a table.

"We were all saying, 'I love you, I love you'. We thought it was the end of the world."

Another shopkeeper said a young boy grabbed a camera from his shop and fled on a bike. "In any disaster, there's always looting."

Smiths City manager Carol McCartin said staff stood guard at the store because the power was cut and the front window smashed.

"We had some jokers pull up and yell, 'Ha ha, we're gonna pinch your stuff', then drive off."

Senior Sergeant Maui Aben said no one had reported looting or burglary to police.

Neighbours checked on each other and the elderly, surf lifesaver Rocky Hall said. "That type of thing really impresses me ... It's a lot to do with Gisborne's isolation and self-sufficiency."

Tony Burke estimated his house had suffered $40,000 of damage. The floor buckled, a large goldfish tank smashed on to the floor and house bricks broke his car's windscreen.

"We just stood in the doorway and watched everything drop around us," he said.

On the Beach bar manager Leanna Grace said diners fled the packed restaurant and she leaped beneath the bar as glasses tumbled.

Many were worried about a tsunami. "Everyone looked at the beach."

Development Ministry East Coast commissioner Lindsay Scott said special needs grants had been given to nine people to buy food.

Inland Revenue would do all it could to help victims if any tax problems arose because of the quake, Revenue Minister Peter Dunne said.

The Dominion Post