Arable Farmer Focus: Bill Davey rocked by huge earthquake

Back in 2005, I mentioned in my column how I almost laughed at receiving a pamphlet from the New Zealand Earthquake Commission telling us how to prepare for, and survive an earthquake. Little did I know that almost five years on, we would witness the most terrifying event of our lives.

The 7.1 magnitude quake which struck at 4:35am on Saturday, 4 September generated the strongest ground shaking ever recorded in New Zealand. To be jolted from my sleep before daybreak by what sounded like a goods train passing the bedroom window and to hear photograph frames and ornaments tumbling off the bedroom vanity unit was so surreal. We have never dressed so quickly in our lives to leave the house, as this seemed the safest option for fear of it collapsing on us.

Following the intense noise, it felt like a huge wave had passed under the house, lifting it before putting it down again. Utterly terrifying. Christchurch took the brunt of the quake with many older structures either badly damaged or facing demolition. Amazingly, no one was killed, which is hard to believe when you view the devastation in some suburbs.

On farm, we’ve been incredibly lucky, although I’m concerned that the irrigation bores and mainline pipe work may have been damaged. Substructures have had a fair old shake up so it’s fingers crossed at the moment. We have been advised to let groundwater settle before turning on submersible pumps, and when we do, have a technician on site to check for electrical faults and pressure levels.

On farms located nearer the epicenter, grain silos split open and fell over and in some cases land, roads and shelter belts were offset by nearly 4m when the fault crossed them. Only by witnessing something like an earthquake can you really appreciate the immense power of Mother Nature.

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