OPINION: The prospect of a major earthquake in Taranaki seems more real after the extraordinary events of the last two days.
The large 6.5-magnitude earthquake that hit the country at 5.09pm on Sunday literally gave us all a jolt, despite it being at a depth of 11km, 30km east of Seddon. It was a timely reminder, if any was needed, of nature's incredible power, which continues to dwarf anything mankind is capable of producing.
While there is no doubt we got off comparatively lightly, with nothing more major than reports of pictures falling off walls and lights swinging, there has been plenty of seismic activity off the south Taranaki coastline this year.
Since Sunday, a common topic of conversation has been: "What were you doing when the earthquake hit?" The question is now part of our daily routine. Although the effect of Sunday's earthquake was minor in these parts, it was scary.
A series of aftershocks have continued since then with several providing sizeable jolts further south, including a 5.5 magnitude hitting within minutes of the 5.09pm earthquake.
Shakes are continuing in the capital and the earthquake was felt as far away as Hamilton and Christchurch. That's a fair chunk of this country, and the rest of New Zealand now has a heightened appreciation of the enormous force and destruction that Christchurch had to endure.
And that's the thing about earthquakes. While we, with a studied fascination mixed with horror at their aftermath, watch it on television from the comfort of our lounges, there's nothing quite like experiencing one first-hand to comprehend the psychological damage it can inflict.
That was something Prime Minister John Key alluded to yesterday. While acknowledging that there were no fatalities, few injuries and little apparent damage to property, he did say he was aware of the damaging psychological effect the quakes can have.
That's something we've learned from the Christchurch experience. Typically, any big jolt is followed by a series of aftershocks that can strike at any time, and by dawn on Monday, Wellingtonians had already had to endure another 30-plus rumblings.
That's enough to unnerve anyone and the underlying fear that the next big, even worse, one is imminent is almost impossible for most to ignore.
The experts tell us that it is by no means certain that "the big one" is on the way as a result of the activity of the last few days. That is of limited comfort, however, when, in the next breath they concede the science of earthquake prediction is so imprecise anything could happen.
Whatever lies ahead, there is one thing we can all do - and that is to be prepared. Civil defence officials are constantly campaigning for us to be adequately prepared, and it is now incumbent on every one of us to do just that. A quick trip to their website, getthru.govt.nz, or your nearest council, could literally be the difference between life and death, should a major earthquake follow.
How prepared are you?
- © Fairfax NZ News
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