Spent a lovely childish day paddling at Sumner and looking around, people watching and generally lazing over coffee. Part tourist, part child in the sun. Who could ask for more?
We had to drive past Redcliff School. This was miraculously not destroyed when the cliffs behind collapsed in the second quake. The debris fell in a huge mass right to the edge of the school ground, and went no further – a hairsbreadth from being another Aberfan: the children were all in school; the staff can never have felt more powerless in the face of Nature.
Teetering above are the sad remains of houses that are now perilously hanging on the edge, all derelict and dangerous. The road below is protected from further rock-fall by huge containers filled with concrete, the narrow road bends and twists around these, the surface though mended is rough to the point of anxiety, bumpy and ditched. Quite alarming to drive along. The effect on the houses in Sumner varies considerably, some have damaged roofs, some no damage and some looking perfectly all right are condemned. So imagine the anxiety of people whose finances are tied up in a house: they cannot go in and collect belongings, they cannot sell or rent and at present cannot claim insurance. Some houses have as many as six stickers, because each new aftershock meant that another loss adjustment decision had to be made.
This must have been a really lovely place to live and play, but it will take a long while to feel safe here, the cliffs loom behind the town and may or may not still be unstable. Only time will tell.
New Brighton suffered a different and more macabre fate. Liquefaction. This is caused when the quaking squeezes and releases water under ground, like a sponge. But unlike a sponge this brings sand (or soil) up to the surface and many people walked out to find their drives, houses and streets covered in several feet of sand, but each time it was cleared up, another aftershock would bring it all back again. Many volunteers came out to help clear the debris, only to have to return a few days later. The River Avon, which runs through New Brighton, used to run along at the bottom of a gulley – since the quake it has run level with the road.
On a more cheerful note here is my paddling pool, and to show that “i woz ther”