The Aftermath

Unison crews work to get the power back on in Napier, Hawkes Bay

Today is Saturday February 18th, 2023. Kia ora!

Yesterday I listened to the Bulwark podcast. Charlie Sykes was talking to Benjamin Wittes, who’s a fellow of the Brookings Institute (on Richard Nixon’s famous enemies list, for those who remember back that far) and editor-in-chief of Lawfare, which provides several podcasts and a blog. I’ve a lot of time for Ben W – his podcasts are useful, for the most part; and he has an interesting sense of humour. When Charlie asked him How are you? He replied that he has no ailments that others wish to hear about, or something along those lines. I totally admire that sentiment! He’s also noteworthy for projecting the Ukrainian flag on the Russian embassy in Washington D.C., and he told Charlie about the new light he’s planning to use on February 24, the anniversary of Putin’s conflict. He must seriously annoy the Russians; the Russians at the embassy have to get up during the night and do something about Ben’s antics.  He joked wryly that if his suicide is reported, he in fact has no intention of taking his own life. Presumably he doesn’t have relations in Russia; many Jewish folk have remained silent about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, presumably because they feel conflicted about it or they have relatives in Russia.

This morning I got some photos of my daughter and her flatmates having breakfast outside in the sun: bacon, eggs and toast, all cooked on the barbecue. It looked wonderful!  Apparently they’re able to boil water on the barbecue, so they can make cups of tea. The power is still off there, although it’s on in parts of Napier. Later on today they’re hoping to use a laundrette.

I listen to the midday update. The confirmed death toll stands at 9, and between 4-5,000 people are still unaccounted for. There seem to be very good updates on various websites. Although almost $2 million has been raised, there is a rush to donate clothing and bedding and suchlike. It’s confirmed, though, that giving cash is probably the most useful as people will know what they need most, be it a generator, a barbecue, food, clothing or bedding…now that many lives have been saved, people can look to the adjustment, the clean up, and their immediate needs, whatever they are. Banks are hoping to get ATMs operational as soon as possible, so that people can withdraw cash. Of course, some homes are beyond repair.

Once again, I’m relieved that my daughter is all right, although the washing situation may be drastic, especially for folk like her, after 5 -6 days.  Others face terrible loss. I cannot imagine losing everything; even on our recent trip to Australia, I dreaded losing my things that I’d packed for the journey; of course, they could be replaced, relatively easily.

Now there are recriminations of course: some reports of looting (overhyped, perhaps?) and questions about not receiving earlier warnings about the extent of the flooding in Hawkes Bay, especially in the Esk Valley and Puketapu.  I know the mayors of Hastings and Napier declared a state of emergency during the night i.e. early morning of Tuesday February 14; I know the flood waters came up very quickly, surprising everyone; I doubt that you can rouse everyone in the middle of the night. I know it was a really  scary time: my daughter’s house had no power; two staff members couldn’t get to her house to work because of the flooding; and this was before the evacuation order went out!  Then there was the issue of evacuating folk on damaged roads where some of the bridges were unusable owing to the rising floodwaters. 

In Napier and Hastings temporary morgues have been set up. In a small rural town, survivors have been distressed by the contents of graves being disturbed by the floodwaters. Meanwhile, in Hastings, Pacifika have been going to church and singing their thanks to God.  As long as you’re alive, that’s the most important thing.

This morning I went to a Repair Café at the Ngaio Union Church. I had put things in a bag to take there.  There was a lamp – I need to get a part for it from a hardware store before it can be fixed, but someone mended two jerseys belonging to JD and advised me about dyeing a hand-knitted but marked jersey of mine. I was also advised to unpick a label on another jersey of JD’s. This is really difficult, but I’ll persist.  They put on a beautiful morning tea, and I saw several friends there.  Afterwards I caught a train and bus home, but it was quite heavy to carry the things I’d brought!

It was quite cold early this morning, although it’s warm and fine now.  I feel that I have a good range of options on my bed, ranging from top sheet, fairy down blanket, duvet, and bed spread. Between them, I can add or subtract different items as necessary.

There’s a bunch of interesting items from US politics. A heavily redacted report from the grand jury convened by Fani Willis, District Attorney for Fulton County, Georgia, has been released. This jury was convened to investigate Donald Trump’s interference and claims of fraud in the November 2020 presidential election. This report states that some of those who gave evidence perjured themselves, although it doesn’t say who; Trump claims that this report completely exonerates him! Of course it does nothing of the sort.

The Special Counsel, Jack Smith, set up to investigate classified documents held wrongly at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate, has subpoenaed Mike Pence and Mike Meadows. He seems to be working at quite a pace.

The other item of great interest is that Nikki Haley has announced a bid for the presidency in 2024.  There is lots of discussion about her flip-flops on policy, and especially on the fact that she was Trump’s Ambassador to the United Nations.  What disturbed me the most was her invocation of a pastor Hagee as the person she would most like to be when she grows up. Hagee has been discredited as a deeply unlikeable and problematic person. How can you do this, America? Wonderful and terrible, that remains my impression of the US. I have been there a few times, and seen some variety of its states and views.

The other thing I was forgetting to mention was Fox news’s reporting on fraud in the 2020 presidential election, even when they knew there was none, or very little; certainly not enough to influence the outcome of the election. Yet they hosted people spouting conspiracy theories about the election, about what came to be called the “big steal”. Dominion, who supplied the voting machines, are suing Fox. And in another note, the Proud Boys have subpoenaed Trump, not that that will have much chance of succeeding. Still, I guess the gesture counts.

This afternoon we went shopping at -guess where – New World Thorndon. It was quite busy there. There were no cherries, but raspberries were a good price at $4.99 a punnet; lettuce was hard to find, but I got most of what I wanted, including Havarti cheese slices. There are no black doris plums, as yet.

It’s now Sunday February 19.

This morning I was to read the Gospel text at church. I had meant to check out the lectern and microphone during the week, but I’d forgotten, so I went early in order to do so. But first, I headed into the supermarket to get some strepsils.  A packet of Strepsils cost me $14.99! $4-5 more than I expected. The self-service machine didn’t print a receipts, although I requested one. Other than that, it was well behaved. My biggest fears were that I’d trip over the steps, coming up or down; that I’d get a frog in my throat, or that I’d read too fast. I think none of these things happened.

It’s Transfiguration Sunday. The Old Testament text was from Exodus, about Moses going up the mountain to communicate with God, in the cloud.  I was privileged to read Matthew 17: 1-9 about the Transfiguration of Jesus. The sermon was about how we see God and are aware of his presence; about the veil, or thin layer that prevents us from seeing him directly. No one has seen God at any time, but Job says I know that from, in my flesh, I shall see God  (Job 19: 25-26).

Afterwards I spoke to several people, and tried to ring or text JD – without success. He had been going to pick me up. Meanwhile, I had missed one bus, and there wouldn’t be another for an hour. I went to have a long black coffee and a cheese scone. I do like a good cheese scone!  I made my way to the bus stop, but the bus I was expecting had been cancelled, or delayed, so I caught a #25 into town. Fortunately this stopped at the Wellington Railway Station, not a good block away, and I was able to catch the 12:32 pm train to Johnsonville. It was quite full. I did this, and then caught a #1 bus to Churton Park, where JD picked me up. We were due at our youngest granddaughter’s birthday party at Avalon Park at 2 pm, but first I had to change into a pink dress, and we needed to wrap her present. Eventually we got away, and found it really easily. What a wonderful set up it is! We had to walk a long way from the carpark at the Park entrance, and it was pretty windy, but quite warm.  It was a wonderful venue for a picnic: the children could rise bikes, or ride the miniature train, or play in the play area, or just run around kicking a ball. There was blowing bubbles, and a beautiful cake, although it was too windy to light the candles.

There is another update from Hōhepa Hawkes Bay.  They are gingerly moving back to some kind of normality, with Civil Defence supplying generators to help the situation in Poraiti; some folk have been evacuated to Havelock North, where they are enjoying everyday luxuries like having the power on, and having showers and clean linen; and two community houses in the Napier are have the power on again.

The death toll from Cyclone Gabrielle has now reached 11, with thousands of people still missing. It seems that the flood waters rose really fast, with some people bashing through ceilings to get access to their roofs, so that they could be rescued. The Prime Minister says there are still 28,000 homes without power.

It’s now Monday February 20th.

I asked JD what he wanted to do today, but he still has a sore ankle from yesterday, when he chased a ball around Avalon Park with one of his grandsons. So I went to my exercise class. It was lovely, of course. It’s a beautiful fine hot day. Afterwards I caught the train back to Johnsonville, and then the bus from the library.  I got home just after JD had left to go out, so I had another cup of coffee and sat outside doing the puzzles in my new Listener magazine. Eventually JD got home; it was pretty late now for going out for lunch – it was a question not only of where would be open on a Monday, but where would still have a kitchen open just before 3 pm. We went to Johnsonville, and had quite a nice lunch, with chips, of course.

I have not heard from Hōhepa today. The confirmed death toll stands at 11; there are still many houses without power. It’s disappointing that there’s been quite a lot of looting in the Hawkes Bay area.  That is just so sad. I believe that Australia’s forced deportation of criminals who were born in New Zealand greatly contributes to the gang presence in Hawkes Bay. Evidently Finance Minister Grant Robertson is considering a Covid-like wage subsidy scheme for those affected by the flooding. Evidently $5 million has been donated so far.

That’s it for now.  I feel deeply for all those affected by the flooding, and trying to get their lives into some kind of order again. It must be so trying for those without power (about 11,000 in Hawkes Bay and Gisborne) – it’s been just on a week now, for those in Hawkes Bay!

Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi nui.

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