Wednesday, February 23, 2011


News coverage of this week's events in Christchurch, NZ has been fairly traumatising for us, especially for V, who lived through Guatemala's great quake of 1976; a 7.5 at a depth of 5km, which resulted in 23,000 deaths.

Earthquakes of 6.3 magnitude or thereabouts are quite a regular occurrence here; in some recent years we have experienced several in the same year. Much depends of course on the particular movement pattern of the tremor and from the footage we've seen from New Zealand, the Christchurch quake was doing some pretty scary things with liquid.

Still, one expects there to be some fall-out in the near future over building regulations there, because the two big office blocks to come down (and the hotel which is now listing) appear to have been too flimsy for a region with seismic tendencies.

Our house is comparatively tall and this scenario remains a nagging fear for us, even though we did what we could to strengthen walls and foundations during the construction phase.* We have agreed that we really ought to have our emergency maletas packed and ready near the easiest exit at all times. The first thing V suggested putting into hers was her iPod, and I had to point out that that would mean she couldn't use it all the other times that we weren't buried under a pile of cinder blocks.

* The foundations (cimientos and zapatas) go down to 1.5m and there are other anti-seismic features in the main walls, which have special foam joins designed to absorb and deflect some of the forces which could otherwise cause the whole structure to wobble as a whole. The rather worn copy of the blueprints above was the one used by the maestro de obras on site. Here's hoping that the house holds together a bit better than its plans!

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