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Special Report: Christchurch Earthquake Relief Effort

Damaged roof

Damaged roof, some of which probably caused by a falling chimney.

At 12:51pm on February 22, 2011, a 6.3 magnitude ‘aftershock’ struck Christchurch, New Zealand at a very shallow depth. Thousands of buildings were seriously damaged or destroyed, with the central city one of the hardest hit areas. Over 160 are confirmed dead at the time of writing, and the death toll is expected to rise to over 220.

Damaged Stores

Damaged Stores, clearly will be demolished in their turn.

This blog is usually intended to focus on aerospace subjects, but in this case I am making an exception, as Christchurch is my ‘home town’ (I live hundreds of km away now, though), and I have personally traveled with a small team to Christchurch to assist those affected by the quake, and thus seen a lot of the damage first hand.

Other quakes in recent years, in other locations (Haiti, for instance), have caused immeasurably greater damage and loss of life. The difference here is, this is a first-world country with world-leading building standards, designed with earthquakes in mind. And still, many billions of dollars of damage has resulted, and at least two major structures have collapsed, resulting in the major proportion of the deaths.

The 6.3 quake of February 22 was a shallow aftershock following the 7.1 quake on September 4, 2010. That quake was at a greater depth, and greater distance from the city, and struck before dawn, so damage was much lighter (though still very substantial) and, miraculously, no lives were lost.

Myself and nine others traveled to Christchurch to assist the relief effort a few days later. Most of us traveled by vans, a trailer loaded with equipment and supplies in tow, for almost 14 hours (spread over a day and a half).

Good humour even in the hard times!

Good humour even in the hard times! The only beach here is the sand everywhere due to liquifaction.

Residential quake damage

Residential quake damage

The photos and video shown here are all taken by myself or my team. Our efforts were concentrated on the worst affected suburbs, and those unable to obtain supplies (due to age, health, infrastructure damage, etc) or clear / repair their property.

The remains of a historic church building.

The remains of a historic church building.

The worst affected areas have no electricity or water supply, and often damaged sewer systems. The roads in places are impassable or severely damaged (though reconstruction teams are doing themselves very proud making roads and other infrastructure functional as quickly as possible). Other areas are without water, or electricity (but not both) and have somewhat lighter damage, though structures in these areas are also sometimes too dangerous to live in / enter.

The severely damaged city center is restricted to emergency / search and rescue personnel only, so the images are mostly of the damage in the suburbs.

I am writing this en-route back home. As far as I could tell, in the areas we were helping, the people are managing very well. There is some hardship and certainly a lot of inconvenience (try living without a working toilet and no alternative W.C. in the area for more than a week!), but there is little if any physical suffering evident.  Emotionally and psychologically, though, things aren’t always as easily managed.

The damaged and leaning Grand Chancellor Hotel in the distance

The damaged and leaning Grand Chancellor Hotel in the distance

Barring another devastating earthquake, Christchurch will make it through.

Communities are pulling together, and help is coming in all kinds of forms from all over the country, and all over the world.

Myself and my team were a small gear in a very large machine helping Christchurch in this difficult time. To the others on my team, and everyone else involved from all over the world, THANK YOU for your contribution. Together, you’re making a tremendous difference. Kia kaha, Christchurch!

 

Categories: Special