When I was younger I remember asking my Grandmother what it was like in the Murchison earthquake (7.8, in 1929). She was 18 at the time, and was sitting outside on a log when it hit. I'd wondered what it must be like to be in an earthquake like that, and now I have a pretty good idea. Here are some excerpts from her memoirs. I can totally understand how she was feeling now. She lived in the Maruia Valley, which was very remote at the time.
"It was certainly a never to be forgotten experience when the big 'quake shattered our peaceful valley and left us feeling very insecure and unsettled, especially Ruth and me.
"It took months for the shakes to subside and for years I was nervous of those uncanny shakes, and still am.
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"Almost a week afterwards the Matakitaki refugees started coming out of their valley on their way to Christchurch where they had been invited, to help them recover from the shock. The weather was very bad at that time; cold winds with thunder storms and floods. Our river was up but not high in flood, so Dad ferried the refugees across with the horses and wagon while someone else took them on to Reefton to catch the train to Christchurch. While waiting their turn to cross the river, they came into our home out of the rain and cold. We were very busy pouring cups of hot tea and providing a bite to eat. Some of them told us that there was another big quake predicted which did not help quieten our fears at all; this being the reason why they wanted to get away as quickly as possible (and I don't blame them). Some weeks later the refugees returned home, the Christchurch people had given them a wonderful time.
"We did have some quite severe aftershocks after that but the big one didn't eventuate much to my relief."
When I spoke to Dad the other day, he said that they really thought it was the end of the world. It's good that we now know why earthquakes happen, but it doesn't make them any less scary!