All around me are the remnants of
shattered & sunken
buildings, & the smell, was I in hell, there was even smoke.
a jolt I awoke from my reverie, & remembered why I was there.
This was a serious earthquake in Gujarat, North West India, in
February 2000. I had been working in the teaming city of Mumbai (
Bombay) , & among my friends were a group of missionaries drawn
to help with this catastrophe, whom I joined.
The impending dread
didn’t stop my enjoyment of the
long train ride north. Rail being my favourite form of travel,
worldwide I have loved its communal nature. I would choose a train
above all else.We click clacked along the highly populated coastal
plains, over bridges across countless marshes where fishing was
paramount, & then into the solid heartland of rural India where
the seemingly ceaseless toil & relative poverty of the farmers
made me feel , lucky, & selfish.
The last 100 km. was
covered at almost walking pace due
to the earthquake and condition of the lines. We arrived in the town
of Gandidam to an unbelievable sight. All the buildings were damaged,
but half were either levelled, or had sunk several floors below
ground . This happens I’m told, when a certain type of substrata
such as gravel, liquefies, & I believe Christchurch has this
Almost in a daze, our
group walked up the main street
shocked at what we were seeing. But it was soon to work. Our first
job was to build a temporary village, out of poles, which were really
just branches, large rolls of scrim, & rope.This was
just to give shade, & shelter from wind. I was proud of my
“number eight wire” background. It was built next to the rail
line, as the centre of operations was “ The Mercy Train”.This is
ten carriages set up as a hospital, which is used all over India in
emergences such as this, sporting a surgery, doctors, nurses &
the works, manned all by volunteers. At night we would move through
the carriages (wards,) & while witnessing terrible carnage,
instruments, & sing to them. The gratitude on the faces of
broken people was a big reward to us.
We slept & ate in
a big tent in the grounds of a
large fertilizer works, but showered etc. inside the buildings.
This was very scary, with cracks everywhere, doors totally stuck,
the ongoing grumbling tremors from the bowels of the earth which
persisted for the duration of our stay.
beautiful to us, was the spirit of the surviving people, as before we
departed for Mumbai, we made time to move amongst them. Forgetting
their pain, beaming faces showed such appreciation to us. Our group,
coming from all corners of the globe made it all the more special to
them. As the train jerked, & stealthily glided forward, looking
out the window at the totally flat slabs of concrete, once the walls
of the station , our hearts went out to the brave people we were
leaving behind who had briefly brushed against our lives
am lucky enough to have spent almost a year in India and it does
touch it’s visitors, with invisible fingers., this experience
being the most touching and poignant of my many memories in that
am editing this in January 2013 and, whilst I didn’t expect it to
happen in my lifetime, in fact we have had the same thing happen here
in our lovely christchurch.