Terrified residents in the New Zealand city of Christchurch were tossed from their beds before dawn as their houses cracked and buckled around them amid a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake. They staggered outside to a mess of crumbled buildings, crushed cars and uprooted roads which prime minister John Key described as looking like parts of the city had been "put in the tumble dryer and been given a darn good shake".
But once the initial shock at yesterday's quake had subsided a bold attitude took over, underscoring the resilience associated with people in the Canterbury region - the second-largest residential district in the country. With electricity and water supplies cut, neighbourhood barbecues were quickly organised as families pooled food and water supplies. In rural areas, farmers set up a network of generators to ensure all morning milking would be completed as quickly as possible.
Throughout the day the media arrived to collect stories of survival and found "an astonishing atmosphere of resilience", the Sunday Star-Times reported. "A community rallied and shared its bottled water with its neighbours ... even those who had lost almost everything were remarkably upbeat." Roderick Smith and partner Nina refused to let the earthquake interrupt their wedding day and used the destruction as a backdrop for their wedding photos.
"All the places we were going to do photos were blocked (so) what we've been doing is driving around and finding nice looking rubble and making the most of a bad situation," Nina told the Stuff website. The chapel where they held the wedding was unscathed but the reception venue was unusable so the party packed into a coffee shop instead. Nigel Smith spent Saturday using his four-wheel drive to pull stuck cars out of people's driveways.
"Something like this brings people together," he said. "It's amazing how everyone has come out and is helping each other." Although the streets were strewn with rubble and shattered glass, and large holes and fissures had appeared in main roads, civil defence officials believed they had the situation under control. Mr Key said it looked like a scene out of a movie: "The roads were just ripped apart. I saw a church completely broken in half."
Yet, offers of assistance from the United States military and from various United Nations programmes were turned down, said civil defence director John Hamilton. "I suppose they're probably surprised that we turned down their offers of assistance because in most cases an earthquake of the magnitude that we've experienced would inevitably result in high casualty numbers and the need for humanitarian assistance," he said.
"We're very grateful that the offers were made and fortunately we were able to say 'not required'." A state of emergency declared soon after the quake will be reviewed tomorrow. * AFP