British Columbia

CBC's Jason Proctor in New Zealand describes 7.8 magnitude earthquake

It was about midnight in New Zealand when CBC senior reporter Jason Proctor experienced he says what felt like a train going through his cabin.
CBC senior reporter Jason Proctor happened to be in New Zealand when an earthquake hit last night. (Jason Proctor)

It was about midnight in New Zealand when CBC Vancouver reporter Jason Proctor was shaken by what he says felt like a train going through his cabin. 

"It was just completely insane. It was one of the scariest things I've ever experienced," Proctor said over the phone from Hokitika, where he happens to be on a cycling tour with a friend.

The small seaside town is on the other side of the country's South Island from Christchurch, or about 300 kilometres from the epicentre of the 7.8 magnitude earthquake that killed two people Saturday night

"It was just swaying everything back and forth," he said, describing coffee pots falling to the ground and doors slamming. "Everybody on the entire South Island could feel it."

After about two minutes of heavy shaking, Proctor says everyone ran out into the parking lot — at which point his main concern became the threat of a tsunami. 

He says although he had felt the quake, he didn't know exactly where it had hit and how it might impact the coast. 

"Is some giant wave going to be coming to carry me away?" he wondered.

Jason Proctor was in Hokitika when the 7.8 magnitude earthquake hit New Zealand this weekend. (Jason Proctor)

Aftershocks all night

Proctor says he was relieved when the tsunami warning system didn't go off where he was. It did, however, do so on the east coast of the island, where two metre waves hit the shore. 

When he went back to bed, Proctor and those around him felt aftershocks all night long. They could still go on for weeks or even months.

"It's kind of unsettling because you just think, well what do I do? It's normal, but the earth is moving constantly," he said. 

"But at the same time, there's no damage here. People are kind of moving on with their lives."

Railway lines on the South Island have been shut down, as well as ferries on the North Island. 

He says all day, the earthquake is the only thing people have been talking about. 

Emergency services issued a tsunami warning, urging people along the east coast to move to higher ground to avoid tsunami waves. New Zealand's Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management reported that a tsunami wave struck at about 1:50 a.m. local time. (Ross Setford/SNPA via Associated Press)

Memories of Christchurch

"Obviously, it brings back everything about Christchurch for everybody," he said, referring to the 2011 earthquake there.

The previous morning, Proctor and his friend had been in Christchurch, from where they caught a train across the island to Greymouth and then biked down to Hokitika. 

He said he was struck by how much damage there still is in Christchurch — whole blocks cordoned off, with crumbling buildings. 

"The entire city looks like it has been the subject of an air raid or a bomb," he said.

Fissures run along a road in Wellington after a major earthquake struck New Zealand's South Island. The quake struck in a mostly rural area close to the city of Christchurch, but appeared to be more strongly felt in the capital. (Ross Setford/SNPA via Associated Press)

For Proctor, it's an unsettling reminder of what could happen on Canada's West Coast. 

"Seeing all of that and seeing this, particularly coming from Vancouver, you can kind of see what we could be in for at one point," he said.

"I've lived in Vancouver for decades, obviously always with the fear of an earthquake. But it's like OK, that's what it would feel like. It's pretty scary."

With files from Tanya Fletcher