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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: Can L.A. go without toilets after an earthquake? Christchurch did

New Zealand earthquake
The Catholic cathedral in Christchurch, New Zealand, was severely damaged in the 2011 earthquake.
(David Wethey / Associated Press)

To the editor: Visiting Christchurch, New Zealand, last fall was indeed a wake-up call about what to expect here in Southern California when the Earth really starts shaking.

Crushed cathedrals and shipping containers stacked up against cracked buildings broke our hearts, but we were shaken to the core by a much simpler thing: toilets. Unlike the “prepare for three days without water and power” warning that we get, much of Christchurch was without water and sewers for many months.

That meant if you lived in a high-rise, you would climb down the stairs and walk out to the portable toilet on the curb to do your business. If you lived in the suburbs, you were encouraged to dig what they called a “long drop” in your backyard. In fact, there was a contest to show off your workmanship.

My husband and I visited New Zealand on our honeymoon nearly three decades ago and love the country and its people. We had to revisit Christchurch to see old friends and a city trying hard to put itself back together. This could and likely will be us here in Los Angeles.

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Kitty Felde, Los Angeles

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To the editor: The February 2011 Christchurch earthquake was actually an aftershock of the larger but more distant September 2010 one.

The first caused massive shaking but little damage, and few residents responded by increasing their preparation, myself included. But in 2011, our rented house became uninhabitable, and we learned what it is like to be refugees.

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Earthquake preparation is hard. People procrastinate, and once you’ve prepared, it’s easy to forget to keep things up. But the danger is lurking, and someday those who planned ahead will be glad they did.

Having now survived three massive quakes, I often think about the fact that a new one could strike right now, as I write this letter — or as you read it. Are you prepared?

Geoff Kuenning, Claremont


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