After the first big shock roared through central Christchurch CWS office management staff got up and opened their windows to let in traumatised workers from the scaffolding outside. When Mandla Dube and Alison Hardie could move they shot to the windows to let in the two earthquake repair inspectors who had been checking repairs from the September earthquake.
“There was a man and a woman out there who we let in as soon as the first shaking stopped.“We then evacuated the building together with other staff and when we got down I looked up to see that the miracle of the scaffolding holding up had continued,” says Mandla. Recent film of the area which is still in the “red/red” maximum danger zone shows that the scaffolding is still intact many aftershocks later.
For other staff the trauma was more intensely personal. None more so than one who shall remain nameless for reasons soon to be obvious who had just finished an exercise session across town. After the September quake and thousands of aftershocks she had developed a very common minor phobia about being caught in the shower in another big one. A fear that came true on February 22 where any previous exertions were instantly excelled by the rapid sprint to the relative safety of the street from the disintegrating gym.
Back on Manchester Street staff assisted passers-by in shock and helped get people out of the damaged CBD. International programmes staffer , Nick Clarke, plunged straight into rescue and crowd control work and after checking his Kaiapoi-based family was okay reporting to the Civil Defence operations centre in the Christchurch Art Gallery.
Over a month later he still has an office there as the liaison officer for the Non Government Organisation Disaster Relief Forum.CWS media officer Greg Jackson is sharing media duties for NDRF with World Vision staff based in Auckland. Other CWS have ended up with more localised assignments like Church and Community youth officer, Katrina Hill who is working in New Brighton as an advocate cum coordinator for the local community.
CWS national director Pauline McKay reports that her lunch time shopping trip on February 22 turned into a harrowing trip back through the inner city to check up on staff and building. “Our people are like most people who were there on the day, that is we all have good days and bad days and sometimes both sorts of days all at once,” she says.
Pauline notes that other staff have carried on keeping the usual business of CWS as functional as can be managed when often key files are totally off limits for the foreseeable future. “With hindsight the organisation was lucky we had the experience post the September earthquake when we were out of the damaged office for a month to learn how to work without a physical office,” she says.
“The most impressive thing about CWS is that although the organisation has taken some huge blows this past year we are actually managing to do not only most of our usual work but also take on extra projects like helping anchor the NDRF recovery work here in Christchurch,”’ she says.Finally CWS would like to thank all the supporters and partners here and overseas who have sent us their good wishes and commitment of ongoing support since the February 22nd earthquake.
22 March 2011