• Another Major Quake Shakes Ōtautahi

last modified August 17, 2012 by strypey

by Danyl Strype

"A 6.3-magnitude earthquake has struck the city of Christchurch in the South Island of New Zealand. The shaking started at 12.50pm on 22nd of February, wreaking destruction throughout the city and devastating the central business district. Dozens of people have been confirmed dead with many currently trapped in central city buildings. Many more are injured or have lost their homes. Aftershocks are still ongoing.

The close proximity of the earthquake's epicenter - at 10km south east of the city - coupled with a shallow depth of 5km has contributed to the violence of the shaking. It is the second major earthquake in recent times for Christchurch residents who have been recovering from a magnitude 7.1 earthquake in September 2010 which resulted in no casualties."

- CrisisCampNZ


I arrived in the city last night, hoping to gather information about the situation in different parts of the city, and help co-ordinate community responses. Service stations in surrounding townships were already running short of fuel, as people fled the city. I saw cues of cars at any stations with fuel left, and in Amberly I saw people filling boat tanks and portable tanks, presumably in fear of being left high and dry if supplies failed completely.

The suburbs have fared very differently depending on their proximity to the epicentre in Lyttelton. The northern and western suburbs had water, power, and phones restored the same day, and there is little visible damage. The eastern and southern suburbs aren't doing so well. Wainoni Rd is the only passable bridge over the Avon River, outside the cordon around the CBD.

In Bexley I saw many houses badly damaged. Many of the roads are covered with silt from liquifaction, and riddled with cracks and holes, some of them with a vehicle nose-deep in them. Driving through streets with no street lights, or signs of life in houses, is an eerie experience. Much respect to the workers who have cleared streets, marked cracks and holes with cones and tape, and closed streets too badly damaged to use. Many were still at work as night fell, directing traffic, and giving warnings of hazards.

Over the first couple of days Civil Defence have been focused on the badly damaged CBD. As aftershocks continue, they cleared the area of shocked stragglers, and moving in rescue teams to pull terrified and exhausted survivors from collapsing buildings. They also established welfare centres in Hagley Park, and at Burnside High School, to shelter those whose houses have collapsed. As the dust begins to settle, attention has moved to assessing the situation in the suburbs, More shelters have been set up at Cowles Stadium, and Pioneers Stadium. The Student's Association have again organised teams of volunteers to help with the clean-up. Despite the usual requests from the authorities for people to stay in their homes, or leave the city in an orderly fashion, many have chosen to stay and get busy in their communities, with or without co-ordination from Civil Defence volunteers.

There's no way to tell how long it will take to restore water and electric mains to the rest of the city, and inspect public buildings to see if they are safe to use. Although cell phone networks seem to be working, and some places have land lines, requests for information about people's situation and what they need in their neighbourhood or slow to be answered.  It's hard to know how best to help at this stage.

Stable Ground

I'm attempting to gather information about places where people wanting to leave the city can stay. People who want to offer space in their homes can submit their contact information, and number of people they can take, via the site set up by CrisisCampNZ. Some people are attempting to set up larger centres and camps elsewhere in the country. These will need volunteers to help with collecting and preparing donated food, tents, bedding, gas cookers etc, and comfort those seeking sanctuary once they arrive.

With no schools open, and most public buildings still off-limits, I'm hoping to idenity spaces (community centres, marae, churches etc) where people can bring their children to play together, have a cup of tea with their neighbours, and seek and offer assistance in their community. Again volunteers to organise activities for the children, and help organise supplies of tea, coffee, milk, sugar and snacks.

If anyone has any further ideas, please leave a comment. If you are on the ground in Otautahi, please share any information information you have with the CrisisCamp team, to be added to their map: http://eq.org.nz/reports/submit, or text that info free to 5627.


Originally published on Aotearoa.Indymedia.org (February, 2011)


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