Boulevard of Broken Dreams – Kaiapoi, PtI

By Jesse Dykstra 08/10/2010

Not a Memory Yet

Photo: Jesse Dykstra
Photo: Jesse Dykstra

It has now been over 4 weeks since the Darfield earthquake rocked Canterbury, yet aftershocks continue to terrorize the region. Monday night, a magnitude 5 aftershock (the largest since Sept 8th) rattled Christchurch, and early this morning a magnitude 4.4 rumble served notice that the Greendale fault has not yet finished announcing its’ presence. 

The aftershocks continue to rattle the frayed nerves of many a sleep-deprived Cantabrian, as well as a few fragile foundations. Personally, although I’m a natural disaster scientist with more than a passing interest in earthquake events, I will be delighted when the aftershocks are finally finished.  Many of us would just like to get on with our lives as best we can, without being constantly reminded of damaged homes and unresolved insurance claims.

But for many of us, life is gradually returning to “normal”, and as each day passes it is perhaps easier to relax our empathy for those whose lives have been profoundly changed. People like the residents of Kaiapoi, where earthquake damage has been severe, but overshadowed by higher-profile areas such as Christchurch’s CBD.

The Story of Kaiapoi

Kaiapoi is a peaceful township of approximately 10,000 residents, just 17km north of Christchurch.  Parts of Kaiapoi that were built on soft sediments with a shallow groundwater table, such as former river beds, floodplains and marshland, were especially hard hit by liquefaction following the earthquake.

I spent part of last week mapping some of the most severe liquefaction damage in Kaiapoi, together with PhD candidate Patrick Kailey and other colleagues from Canterbury University’s Civil Engineering Department. I was stunned by the extent of the physical damage, and saddened by the emotional battering that many residents were clearly still enduring.

Photo: Jesse Dykstra


Despite being at home in Christchurch during the earthquake, visiting the fault trace shortly after the event,  and seeing first hand much of the damage in central Christchurch, I hadn’t really appreciated what  a devastating blow had been dealt to the people of Kaiapoi.  It was in Kaiapoi  that I saw the tragic side of this earthquake. I can now appreciate that while it is incredibly fortunate that people were not killed during this natural disaster, many peoples’ lives have been turned upside down.

Photo: Jesse Dykstra

 Dozens of homes have been destroyed in Kaiapoi, and with each there is surely an individual tale of fear, sorrow, and loss.  Even three weeks after the event, the sense of lives simply dropped in an instant was clear. Curtains billowing with the breeze in an open window, the washing hung out to dry. A garage sale sign separated from it’s lilting home by a gaping 1.2 metre wide crack. Toys abandoned in a yard ripped apart by fissures. Chooks roaming back yards.   



Photo: Jesse Dykstra

Some families may have been unable to return to their homes to collect belongings and pets, due to safety concerns.  Many homes in Kaiapoi remain without clean water or sewerage, which may take months to remedy. Lines of Port-a-loos serve as a reminder that most of us take safe drinking water and sewage disposal for granted. 


to be continued next week…