Saturday, September 4, 2010

Canterbury Earthquake 1869

A very severe shock of earthquake, confined, so far as we have been able to make out to this province, was experienced at about five seconds past eight o'clock this morning. The exact time is, of course, disputed, but we take it from a person who noticed that the clock in the Government Buildings had just struck the fifth stroke of the hour above-mentioned when the shock began. While houses were still shaking, and chimneys falling in almost every direction, men, women, and children were rushing terror stricken into the open air, and one person living at a short distance from the city describes the mingled sound borne through the air to the rush of a large railway train with the steam-whistle giving forth its shrill shriek. There are few quarters in Christchurch in which evidences of the shock are absent. In most cases, however, the damage is confined to rent or fallen chimneys. The Government Buildings, more especially the new Council Chamber, have undoubtedly suffered most. To repair the damage there will cost a considerable sum. It was feared that the banks and other more substantial buildings would have been severely damaged. We are glad to say, however, that this has not been the case to any very considerable extent. The new offices of the New Zealand Insurance Company, in Hereford street, have sustained damage, and so have the offices belonging to Messrs Matson and Co close by. The offices of the New Zealand Trust and Loan Company, also in Hereford street are damaged, and we have heard that one side of a small brick house on the town reserves, standing in a road running between Madras street and Manchester street north, has been shaken completely out. The church of St. John the Baptist, and the Town Hall have been severely shaken. We are thankful to say that we have not heard of any injury to life or limb. Few private houses in town have altogether escaped. In most, there is some damage to record; in a few, the damage has been very considerable. Some of the shopkeepers, particularly those in the china and glass trade, have been heavy losers. As an instance of this, we may mention that Messrs Weir Brothers, in Colombo street, china and glass merchants, estimate their loss at £100. Most of the chemists and druggists are losers to some extent.
Our Lyttelton correspondent writes as follows:- At 8 a.m. the inhabitants were aroused and alarmed by hearing a loud noise, resembling the rumbling of heavy waggons. Immediately after the ground began to vibrate, and the houses to shake; men, women, and children rushed out of their houses in the greatest terror. The shock was a most severe one clocks were stopped, bells rung, and crockery smashed in the various houses. The direction of the earthquake was from south to north. The railway employes (sic) on the various wharves felt the shock severely. The wharves were considerably shaken, and the vessels loading alongside were knocked up against them, although there was not a ripple to be seen on the water or a breath of air blowing at the time. The trucks on the breastwork, and also on the line, felt the shock, and bumped against each other. The large chains of the derrick were put in motion. With the exception of one fallen chimney, and the smashing of crockery, &c, we have not heard of any damage being done. The shock lasted about 30 seconds. It was feared that some accident had occurred in the tunnel, and that, as the shock had been so severe, part of it might hare fallen in. Precaution was however taken at the Heathcote end, and the engine was sent through first; happily it was found that there was nothing wrong. The shock has caused great excitement in port.
Star , Issue 331, 5 June 1869, Page 2

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