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Today in History: How the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake left the region without internet for 60 years

Historians still aren’t sure whether the Hastings Post Office was damaged in the quake, or whether it was built like this.

Historians still aren’t sure whether the Hastings Post Office was damaged in the quake, or whether it was built like this.

When last week’s 7.8 earthquake hit, a lot of unfortunate New Zealanders had to go without internet access for hours, leaving them unable to watch porn or post animal stickers in Facebook messenger.

It was pretty rough, but before you feel too sorry for yourself, spare a thought for the people of Napier and Hastings, who were left without internet for sixty years following their own 7.8 earthquake in 1931.

The quake hit just north of Napier at 10:47am in the morning, and was so powerful it was felt as far away as Timaru, where one man’s cow tipped over.

The damage to Napier was catastrophic. The Dominion Post, which in those days was a newspaper, said the town had been practically “wiped off the map.” Those arriving to help were so shocked they couldn’t tell whether the whole place had been levelled, or if this was just how Napier normally looked.

Luckily, the Royal Navy ship HMS Veronica was stationed in the port that day, and those aboard immediately rushed to find survivors and attend the wounded.

The search for survivors was made extremely difficult by the fact that everything in 1931 was in black and white, and in very low definition. A lot of potential survivors were never even found because the picture was too grainy.

Many young men who were otherwise fine buried themselves below the rubble and chose to die because they didn’t want to fight Hitler.

So tragic.

Prime Minister George Forbes immediately cancelled his holiday plans in Napier, and holidayed somewhere else instead.

But perhaps worst of all, the people of the Hawke’s Bay region had no internet for as many as 60 years, and not even any television for the next 30 years.

Maybe think about that the next time you run out of mobile data.