CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand The neighborhood's toilet is a portable one out on Keller Street. The water supply is cut, making showers and clean laundry distant dreams. Resident stay fresh with bottles of hand sanitizer, and they're running low.
"Don't stand too close to anyone," Judy Prime said with a chuckle as she took a break from shoveling huge piles of wet sludge out of her garage in the shattered Christchurch suburb of Avonside.
The days since Tuesday's massive earthquake rumbled through Christchurch, killing at least 123 and toppling buildings, have brought a level of misery unusual for the residents of this modern city of 350,000. Some 226 people remain missing, said Police Superintendent David Cliff.
Water and power supplies to thousands have been cut, and many have been forced to sleep in their cars or tents as their unstable houses sway with the relentless aftershocks.
Many Christchurch residents first started getting used to some deprivation five months ago, when an earlier quake struck the city. Now, life is even worse.
Tuesday's temblor brought a fresh surge of water up through cracks in the yards of Prime and her neighbors along Keller Street. Most houses on the street suffered damage, and many will need to be demolished.
Prime, 66, has spent each night sleeping on a rubber mat under the dining room table, worried that aftershocks will send parts of her home crashing down. Every evening, she and her neighbors gather in her back yard to share beers and barbecue the meat from her freezer still good, because it was encased in thick ice when the power went out.
"We've become a family, you know?" she said. "What one hasn't got, the other has."
Across the road, Christmas lights adorn the portable toilet that has stood outside Paul Stokes' house since the September quake knocked out the sewage line. Officials still hadn't gotten around to fixing the pipes from that disaster when Tuesday's temblor hit.
"Only Christmas lights I put up this year it's really handy in the middle of the night," said Stokes, who was wearing a T-shirt that said "Tested to 7.1" a reference to the magnitude of the September quake.
Mayor Bob Parker said 780 portable toilets have been installed throughout the city, and hundreds more are on their way. But many residents have resorted to digging holes in their gardens to take care of business. For those on Keller Street, the Stokes' toilet is a blessing.
Inside their home, Stokes' wife Yvonne sat by a wood stove, warming up from the chilly drizzle outside. Thursday was the first night since the quake that she slept while sitting up in a chair in the living room. The ceiling in her bedroom is sagging, the walls are cracked and she worries the roof might cave. The whole house will have to be destroyed, she said.
Thursday also marked the first day she'd managed to eat since the disaster; the family cooked up sausages and mashed potatoes on a gas stove.
She clutched the hand of her sister-in-law, Christine Lagan, and cried as the two sat side by side. Lagan took the family's laundry back to her house outside Christchurch on Thursday and returned with fresh clothes giving the family a small measure of dignity amidst the dismal conditions.