More than 200 Zimbabwean families living in Christchurch, New Zealand, at the weekend escaped an earthquake — measuring 7,1 on the Richter’s scale — that hit the area leaving a trail of destruction estimated to run into billions of dollars.
The city that is home to nearly 350 000 residents was hit by the quake in the early hours of Saturday and has experienced numerous aftershocks, three of which had a magnitude over 5.
According to Eldrede Kahiya, a Zimbabwean resident in the city, there were no fatalities despite the magnitude of the quake.
“We escaped with absolutely no injuries and there was no damage to any of our property. This is amazing because the epicentre was just 20km away,” said Kahiya. “The earthquake that hit us was more intense than the one that affected Haiti late last year.
“There are some friends that are still without power and running water. There are some roads with craters and several streets are flooded but not in our neighbourhood.”
However hundreds of buildings, houses, roads, bridges and power and communications infrastructure were damaged.
Another Zimbabwean, Edwin Mabonga a dairy farmer, said: “They are on top of the situation and do not guess or ponder on what’s next to be done.”
Mabonga and many other Zimbabweans in New Zealand have been inundated with distress calls from family and friends back home since news of the quake broke out.
Within New Zealand, Zimbabweans from outside Christchurch continue to check on their fellows by all means possible, an organic show of solidarity.
Welfare centres have been set to up provide accommodation and food to the homeless or unsafe in damaged properties.
“I have never felt this helpless,” texted Qakathekile Khumalo, a student at Lincoln University describing his ordeal that lasted for about 45 minutes.
Zimbabweans in South Island chairperson, Joseph Chitongo, said “he tasted hell” and had the longest ever possible two minutes’ experience.
Chitongo paid tribute to other Zimbabweans in New Zealand for their calls, text messages and emails of solidarity.
•Mandla Akhe Dube is a Zimbabwean journalist living in Christchurch since 2002.