Christchurch woman in California quake

01:13, Aug 26 2014
Rosemary Gallagher
SHAKEN: Rosemary Gallagher lives in Napa, California, near the epicentre of the magnitude 6.0 earthquake that shook much of the San Francisco Bay area.

A Kiwi expat living in the San Francisco Bay Area is cleaning up her own backyard after coordinating a fundraising event for her quake-hit New Zealand hometown two years ago.

Rosemary Gallagher lives in Napa, California, near the epicentre of the magnitude 6.0 earthquake that shook much of the Bay Area awake at 3.20am (10.20pm NZ time).

The former Christchurch woman, whose cousin died in the city's February 2011 quake, was behind an event that raised about $15,000 for the city post-disaster.

The money from the Forgotten City Fundraiser she organised in 2012 went to the communities of Aranui, Shirley and Kaiapoi.

Gallagher has now experienced an earthquake in her own backyard, which damaged buildings, cut power, sparked fires and injured at least 89 people, including three in critical condition.

The quake, felt as far south as Santa Cruz and into Sonoma County, was the largest to strike the Bay Area since the 6.9 Loma Prieta quake of 1989, the US Geological Survey said.


It prompted Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency.

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Gallagher, 55, said it was ''a miracle'' no one died.

''Everybody was asleep so no-one was downtown when the brick facades came down,'' she said.

In south-west Napa, where some of Gallagher's friends lived, the damage was ''pretty serious'', with fallen chimneys, fences and brick facades.

Gallagher, who has been back and forth to New Zealand since February 22, 2011, said she felt ''disoriented'' when the quake struck early morning.

''I thought, 'Am I in Christchurch?' It was a very jagged earthquake, which almost came through your whole body. It was quite frightening. They say in California, 'There's a big one coming'. In Northern California, I would say we're aware, but nothing like what Christchurch is now. [This] makes it more real,'' she said.

The force of the quake burst water pipes at Gallagher's house, broke glassware and ceramics and caused her mother-in-law's chimney to shift on its foundations.

''We live on a vineyard just north of Napa and there are two houses on the property. My mother-in-law lives in a 90-year-old house and it suffered the most. Her chimney went - just like so many in Christchurch,'' she said.

Susan Davis, who lives about 30 kilometres north of Napa, and was also behind the Forgotten City Fundraiser, said she and her husband were ''shaken out of bed'' when the quake hit.

''I grew up in California, so I'm used to the concept of earthquakes, but I don't remember anything quite like it. It felt like walking on a boat,'' Davis said.

''My husband and I spent the day in Napa helping our children clean up kitchen disasters. There are people without water and power and cleaning up messes. A few people lost mobile homes,'' she said.

''[Authorities] have been discouraging people from going downtown. There are certainly going to be some after-effects. I think it was a real heads-up for everyone.''

The Press