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‘We were all screaming — we got the animals and ran’

Wen Baragrey, who lives in Christchurch, New Zealand, where the earthquake struck, was interviewed for’s reporting of the quake. In addition, Baragrey, a writer of young adult fiction, wrote a firsthand account of her experience, which she allowed to reprint — with the caveat that readers know that after her rude awakening by a 7.0 temblor this morning, she wrote this as a “writer in shock.”

Baragrey wrote to several hours after the earthquake from the safety of a relative’s house, 30 minutes away:

I’m a writer with two kids. My pregnant daughter and her partner were home with me, and my son was out (daughter is 18, son is 21). I’m a resident of Christchurch, living in North New Brighton, right by the sea.

When it hit, I was awake, having terrible trouble sleeping. I felt the first shifts with my bed shaking and I leaped straight out of it and ran. I stopped by my daughter’s room and threw the door open and screamed at them to run. I ran to an outside door and held on to the frame. The ground was moving so much, I fell on the way to the door and could barely keep my feet. It was frosty and freezing cold. In the distance, I could see bright flashes of light around the city and hear explosions. Apparently that was the power transformers blowing. The lights went out and the kids couldn’t get out of bed — it was moving too much — so they had to ride it out.

My two dogs, a German shepherd and a collie, were hiding between my legs. It just seemed to last so long. I thought I heard things falling and I had thought it was part of the house, but we haven’t gone back to see. Our house is built on pure sand, so I think it sank in places. You could hear the creaking.

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I dislocated my shoulder and put it back in myself (I’ve done it a few times). When it finally stopped, we were all screaming. We got the animals and ran to the car. After all, we didn’t know if the quake was west of us or east, so a tsunami could have been coming. We got my shepherd, Ryder, into the car but lost Phlee, the collie. She had run inside and gone into her crate and shut the door behind her!Burst pipes and power outages
We left in our pajamas. We had trouble getting the car started, and the windows were frosty, so it was hard to get out. There were already others getting in cars and running, people standing outside, crying and confused. There were burst pipes and water flooding over the road. We have a four-wheel drive, so we dodged it all and got out of the city as fast as we could. None of the traffic lights were working, so it was chaos.

Finally, the cell phones came back on and I could call my son. He was fine and on his way to help a friend whose house had sunk (Christchurch is built on swamp and sand). It was filled with water and they couldn’t get out because the roads had buckled.

He also went to his work and found the Central City had collapsed buildings and caused damage everywhere, and flooding. His work has a lot of damage and their machines destroyed.

We got out of town over the most modern bridge on the highway. Apparently one of the other bridges had been cracked and damaged. My sister lives in a town called Rangiora, 30 minutes out of town, so we went there. It was a dreadful trip: dark, freezing cold with cracked roads and flooded areas.

It took a couple of hours to get a hold of everyone, but we’re all together now. My son is on his way with my brother-in-law back to the house to try and get some medications and other things we left behind (like shoes). We left in such a hurry. We stopped for nothing but humans and the animals we could find.

Apparently, there is already looting, which is really disappointing but inevitable, I suppose. We’re hoping to get back and get our valuables before someone else does! The power is still out all over town, and probably will be for days. We’re being warned to conserve water and be careful of sewage as so much infrastructure is down. So far, we’ve not heard of anyone hurt. My daughter has a very sore back and my shoulder are the only things we have. Thank goodness.